Diamer-Bahshah and Bunji Dams are on Govt. list for US funding

ISLAMABAD (ET): Even as the United States has shown willingness tofinance large-scale energy projects in Pakistan, Islamabad has yet to prioritise its ‘wish list’, forcing Washington to ask Pakistani officials to focus only on strategically important projects.

Senior officials from both countries met on Wednesday as part of the Fourth Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue on Energy, chaired jointly by Water and Power Minister Naveed Qamar and US Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual. Among the goals of the meeting was to identify projects that the US might be able to fund as part of the $7.5 billion Kerry-Lugar civilian assistance package for Pakistan.

Pakistani officials gave an overview of the energy situation in the country and then listed a series of large-scale projects that they wanted to be funded. But there appeared to be little coordination between the various government departments that made presentations.

The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) sought US financing for the Diamer Basha Dam, as well as the Dasu and Bunji dams, while the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) asked for funding for thermal power generation projects, said an official of the water and power ministry.

(Read: US likely to persuade Pakistan to abandon Iran gas pipeline project)

The lack of coordination comes even as the US appears to have conceded on a key Pakistani demand: that Washington finance a smaller number of large, ‘visible’ and strategically important projects rather than the dozens of smaller projects that it currently seems to be funding.

The largest programme that the US has funded thus far – providing money for the Watan Cards compensation scheme for flood victims – cost $190 million. Many of the projects funded by the US were as small as $4 million.

The reason for the smaller-scale of Washington-funded projects is what is known as the ‘earmark’ system in the US legislative process, whereby US lawmakers are allowed to request funding for proposals of their choosing. This diverts funding from projects that Pakistan needs to those US lawmakers think are important, based on their domestic, US-based constituencies.

Much of Washington’s funding thus far under the Kerry-Lugar bill has gone to projects that were so small that they did not need foreign financing.

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