PESHAWAR: Almost on cue, the opposition lashed out at the treasury benches for the recently announced K-P budget for FY 2016-17.
The MPAs on opposing side of the house said the allocation were nothing more than a jugglery of figures confined to benefiting five districts.
Opposition leader Lutfur Rahman of JUI-F started the debate on the 2016-17 budget. He said both the outgoing and current budgets were in deficit.
“The hue and cry of the finance minister in the speech is proof the budget is a deficit one,” he said. Rahman was pointing to a portion of the speech which explained the revenue shortfall from the federal government and the failure of the Centre to transfer K-P’s share in net hydel profit and arrears.
The JUI-F leader maintained the budget speech indicated a shortfall of Rs60 billion in revenue in the outgoing year.
“The budget is limited to five districts and I can’t call it a provincial budget.” The complaint was initially raised by PML-N MPA Sardar Aurangzeb Nalota and Syed Jaffar Shah of ANP in their speeches.
“The finance minister, who read the speech, did not know what he was saying. I can prove in the house Muzaffar Said had no understanding about what he read in his speech,” Rahman said, while meticulously raising weak and dubious points in the lengthy speech.
“The Rs18.7 billion figure of the NHP was also in the previous year’s budget, but was never received. You received Rs6 billion instead. How can you expect this in the coming year? Again, you have placed Rs18.7 billion as estimates from NHP. Are you not deceiving yourself?” he questioned.
He then came to the province’s own non-tax receipts portion of the budget. He pointed out that the regime outlined Rs12 billion in its revenue receipts from the development/commercialisation of government land. “You did the same in the outgoing year’s budget and expected Rs14 billion from housing which could not be achieved,” he highlighted.
The MPA asked how the government could be so sure of being able to develop government land for commercialisation and substantial revenue generation. “If someone went to court against you, how would you meet this target?” he questioned.
Rahman went on to slam the treasury for placing Rs12.2 billion on the receipts side. “You have placed the loan in receipts. How can you call a loan receipts?” he asked. He told the government to admit the 2016-17 is one of deficit. Rehman said such an acknowledgment would do more harm than good as authorities can plan properly.
The JUI-F leader added the new budget had a deficit of Rs65 billion and criticised the government for showing surrendered money of the previous year in receipts. He called it a way of deceiving the public.
PML-N’s Aurangzeb Nalota also took a swipe at the government. He said the district budget should be renamed. He suggested calling it the ‘few districts’ budget. ANP lawmaker Jaffar Shah slammed the Rs37 million allocation for the energy and power sector. He was expecting huge funds from foreign donors, who he claimed had now left the province.
In its defence
Minister for Public Health Engineering Shah Farman answered Rahman’s questions, saying the government resolved the NHP issue with the Centre two months ago and the latter agreed to uncap the NHP at Rs1.10 per kilowatts per hour.
“At this rate, we should expect Rs20 billion in NHP and that too is an underestimate,” he claimed. The minister called the budget “balanced”. He criticised the opposition members who had been part of the previous government.
“Those who are responsible for these conditions should not tell us how to govern.” Farman claimed the PTI regime had improved the law and order situation. He pointed out people who were afraid to step out of their homes for fear of being targeted were now holding rallies.
Chief Minister’s Special Assistant on Information and Higher Education Mushtaq Ghani said no provincial government could present a better budget, especially with so much money due from the Centre. He pointed out K-P CM Pervez Khattak had set aside the lowest amount of all chief ministers of the country for his official residence.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2016.