The government should ensure equitable distribution of provincial development budget among districts to end the prevailing sense of deprivation. This was demanded by speakers at the people’s assembly at Area Study Centre, Peshawar University on Thursday.
They noted with concern that the ANP government has promoted the politics of patronage and wooed constituents in selected areas by spending a disproportionate amount of development funds shown as block funds.
Participants also accused the provincial government of depriving a majority of people in the province of the fundamental right of development by diverting a big chunk of development budget to the home district of Chief Minister (CM) Ameer Haider Hoti.
A mere 2.8% of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) development funds for the financial year 2011-12 was allocated to the chronically poor southern districts, and 6.1% to the Hazara region against the due share of 21% for southern districts and 19% for Hazara division, if one goes by the criteria specified by the National Finance Commission, said Omar Asghar Khan Foundation (OAKF) Executive Director Ali Asghar Khan.
While providing a breakup of the development budget and its distribution by the provincial government, he said that out of Rs85.14 billion for the fiscal year 2011-12, the government marked Rs57 billion as block funds which was 66.95% of the total budget.
He said that owing to ambiguous and non-transparent criteria for allocation, the government retained more than two-third of the total development outlay.
While highlighting the inequity in allocations for flood rehabilitation in K-P’s budget for 2011-12, he said Kohistan accounted for 12% of the total affected population of the province, but it was allocated only Rs25 million out of a total outlay of Rs8.46 billion set aside for flood rehabilitation.
On the basis of numbers of affected persons, Kohistan should have received over Rs1 billion or an estimated 40 times more than the amount allocated in 2011-12, he added. Of the block allocations, Khan, said CM KPK funnelled Rs300 million marked for scholarships towards students of his home district in 2010-11.
Equitable distribution of public funds inculcates a sense of belonging in people, said Rashida Dohad, a development practitioner. “The challenges facing the country can be traced to the improper use of public funds that benefit a few.”
She said that people living in areas that do not receive adequate funds experience a sense of marginalisation and alienation.
She urged legislators to ensure transparency, accountability and judicious use of public funds to strengthen democratic institutions in Pakistan. Sailab Mehsud, a civil society activist from the tribal areas demanded cuts in the defence budget and diverting the funds for development in neglected areas.
Qazi Asad, provincial minister for higher education, said fair and transparent budgets can only be ensured through legislation.
Although he appeared to be skeptical about the figures provided by OAKF, he expressed his commitment for legislation for more equitable budget allocation. Political activists and members of academia and civil society from Kohistan, DI Khan, Tank, Abbottabad, Haripur, Dir, Malakand, Swat and Peshawar, attended the programme.
The event was organised by OAKF.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2012.
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