Sindh Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah, while defending the provincial budget for 2012-13, has said that his government had allocated funds fairly so that nobody could accuse the government of being biased against any community, district or city.
His comments at the post-budget press conference, held at the Chief Minister’s House on Tuesday, were aimed at silencing those who were questioning heavy spending on development schemes in the provincial budget that would lead to a deficit.
“The budget deficit is expected because of a sharp increase in allocation for the annual development plan for next year,” Shah replied when asked about the budget deficit despite the expected sharp increase of 18% in revenues.
The budget deficit in 2012-13 is estimated to be Rs7.16 billion, or 1.24% of the total budget. Spending on the annual development plan will rise from Rs155.86 billion in 2011-12 to Rs231 billion in 2012-13, a hike of 48.2%.
The finance minister repeatedly reminded the audience that “one should give a positive thought” to understand all this while explaining the budget numbers.
Responding to a question on the budget deficit despite getting billions in loans, the finance minister said, “There is no issue of loan burden on Sindh. The financial health of the province is good, so there is no problem of local and foreign loans. What is important is that whether we are channelling the loans in the right direction or not.”
Thar coal and energy
Shah said Sindh was mindful of the fact that the province is an energy basket of the country and should allocate enough money to develop its coal, oil and gas resources to feed the entire nation. Therefore, “we are investing billions of rupees in the development of Thar coal infrastructure.”
“The energy solution of Pakistan lies in Sindh. We want the federal government to allocate funds along with the Sindh government so that the Thar coal project could be developed soon as it will help all of us,” he said.
He expressed the hope that partnerships between the Sindh government and private sector would give excellent results to not only the province, but also to the whole country as it would help overcome the energy deficit.
Karachi and Zulfikarabad
Shah said the development budget of Karachi stood at over Rs4 billion and the government had also allocated funds for circular railway and mass transit programme of the city.
“The funds for mega projects of Karachi are interlinked with foreign loans. Japanese companies are working on these projects and it all depends on foreign loans and grants,” he said while talking about the mass transit programme.
President Asif Ali Zardari was taking keen interest in Zulfikarabad, he said when asked about the slow progress on Zulfikarabad. The city was being planned on the model of an industrialised city and it would grow gradually with industrialisation, he said.
“Pakistan has invited Chinese investors who are working on the city’s plan,” he said, adding “if we succeed in establishing 15 to 20 industries, we will be able to generate hundreds and thousands of new jobs for the new city.”
The eloquent finance minister responded to most of the questions through secretaries of different departments, who shared a long stage with him.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2012.
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