KARACHI: As the general elections approach, the Sindh government has announced a development-heavy budget that provides considerable funds for health, education and transport networks and focuses on constituencies where ruling parties have a stronghold.
The Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) coalition partner at the federal and provincial level, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) says it is glad that development is a focus.
Faisal Subzwari, the MQM’s deputy parliamentary leader in the Sindh Assembly, told The Express Tribune that there needs to be a continuation of policy. “Development is a focus, which is good, and there is money allocated for health and education. There are also new jobs. But what is important is that this be implemented,” he said. “Given the amount of money that has been allocated on development in the past four years – whether that money was spent or not is a different discussion altogether – the results should have been more visible. People want to see where the money went.”
Subzwari, who is a provincial minister for youth affairs, believes that the provincial budget is a continuation of what is laid out in the federal budget, and so it is the latter that impacts people’s lives directly.
The MQM had submitted its budgetary proposals to the government which included
Subzwari said the MQM had asked for progressive taxation, for all levels of society to be taxed, not just the poor.
Another major point according to the MQM was the support price of wheat. “I think it’s a good thing that the rural population is helped out by the minimum support price and there are subsidies on tractors and urea. But the urban population bears the burden of the low support price,” he said. “They should be given subsidies too.” As far as the special projects are concerned, District Central has been allocated Rs100 million in the 2012 to 2013 budget. But Subzwari said that this was “nothing” – “the cost to build the road and water lines from Sakhi Hassan to Surjani cost Rs72 million just a few years ago.”
Subzwari also said that the party had told the PPP to treat the city according to districts. “Take District South. You’re giving Lyari Rs800 million – we told them to give it Rs900 million if they wanted – but you have to allocate money for the entire district not just one area.”
The MQM said that as far as their budget proposals were concerned, several things were taken into account and were even given more money, in some cases. However, the party was scheduled to meet on Wednesday afternoon and discuss the budget in detail ahead of the Sindh Assembly’s sitting on Thursday.
Imtiaz Ahmed Sheikh of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional said it was a “balanced budget” and that his party’s proposals had been taken into account. Sheikh, the provincial minister for special education, told The Express Tribune, “The allocation in the education sector has been increased which is a good thing, and there are 20,000 direct employment opportunities. It’s a tax-free budget and nothing better could have come at this time.”
Awami National Party’s Sindh General Secretary Bashir Jan told The Express Tribune that the party was satisfied with the budget as Sindh had gotten a lot of money. He hoped that most of it would be spent on education. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Marvi Memon said that the budget mentioned only the future allocation and failed to mention the previous track record of the government. “On ground where are the projects and development work for which the government was allocated millions of rupees in the last budget,” she said. “Since it is the last year of the government, the PPP wants to garner support from people for election year by showing that the future budget has a lot of developmental projects but said that it was just a dream list.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2012.