Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar has directed the Ministry of Information Technology and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to finalise the auction of 3G and 4G licences in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) on priority, as the importance of IT is far greater for remote areas than the large cities of Pakistan.

“Generating economic activities in remote areas will only be possible through strong IT infrastructure in the future,” he said while chairing a progress review meeting on G-B development plan on Monday. Umar added that one of the underlining principles is to create maximum employment opportunities for the youth and people of G-B.

G-B Additional Chief Secretary briefed the minister on the potential projects in the public sector, non-PSDP (Public Sector Development Programme) initiatives, as well as in the Public-Private Partnership mode. The various priority sectors such as clean energy and hydropower, health, education and skill development, tourism, private sector development, agriculture, women development, social welfare and youth were also discussed in the meeting.

The meeting was informed that all provincial departments are in contact with relevant federal ministries/divisions and PC-Is of the shortlisted schemes are being prepared by the respective departments. The G-B government placed special emphasis on clean energy to mitigate severe power crisis in the area, other priority sectors included tourism, gems and minerals, agricultural products, roads and communications and information technology.

Umar stated that the G-B power sector should have a regional grid of its own as a connection to the grid posed a challenge due to the distance involved. He said that the aim in G-B development package on the energy side is not only to produce energy but also to build the right institutional and regulatory framework and generation transmission distribution capacity as well.

Umar directed PPP Authority to assist G-B government in strengthening G-B PPP Unit and help in the identification of private sector partners. He called on the Board of Investment (BOI) to hold roadshows in two or three different cities in Pakistan where the federal and provincial governments could jointly market available public-private opportunities to potential investors.

Umar directed the planning ministry to devise a strategy for training and capacity building of G-B officers and directed all the ministries and divisions to complete the feasibility and submits the PC-Is to the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) so that activities on ground could start as early as possible.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2021.

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