KARACHI: Clarifying the misconception that Karachi has been allocated the lowest amount in the 2017-18 budget, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said on Tuesday that the government has earmarked Rs71 billion for the country’s financial hub.
“We have allocated Rs12 billion in Annual Development Programme (ADP) for Karachi but the total development portfolio for the city stands at Rs71 billion,” the CM said about the development package for Karachi at the post-budget briefing.
Denying media reports that claimed Karachi received the least funds out of Sindh’s six divisions in the budget, the CM asserted that the city has been given a higher allocation than any other division.
Elaborating on the matter, Shah said Rs15 billion has been allocated for the K-IV drinking water scheme, while Rs5 billion has been allocated for the project’s land acquisition. He shared details of various roads, flyovers and underpasses that are being constructed in the city. “We have already inaugurated Tariq Road and will open a portion of University Road by June 10,” the CM said, adding that Hub River Road, Sharae Faisal Underpass, reconstruction of Tipu Sultan Road, Lea Market Flyover, Cantt Station Road and the Edhi Bus Rapid Transit Line are among other projects that have been included in the budget.
Regarding the utilisation of funds in the ongoing year, the CM said a total of Rs225 billion was allocated for the ADP in the fiscal year 2016-17, of which the government released Rs210 billion and Rs150 billion has been utilised so far. “By the end of this financial year, we can spend Rs190 billion from the current ADP,” he vowed, adding that most of the schemes in the ADP will be finished in a year.
The CM said his government is focusing on the development budget by reducing non-development expenditure. He added that the CM’s secretariat has adopted stern austerity measures. “CM House expenses have been pitched at Rs750 million against an actual allocation of Rs2.1 billion,” he said, urging other departments and institutions to control excessive expenditure.
According to Shah, an agreement has been signed with a Chinese company to lift garbage from districts South and East. “Work has been started in District South, where Karachi’s roads are being washed in a cleanliness drive,” he said, adding that he is personally monitoring the development work and cleanliness drive.
“I paid a surprise visit to various areas and found municipal employees washing the roads in Saddar, Clifton and its adjoining areas,” the CM said, adding that when he was a child, the roads of Karachi were regularly cleaned with water.
DMCs to collect property tax
Rebutting reports that property tax has been enhanced on 120 square-yard plots, the CM said after collecting property tax, the excise and taxation department hands the amount over to District Municipal Corporation (DMCs). “Now we have decided to strengthen DMCs by allowing them to collect property tax on their own,” he announced.
He said the government collected property tax of Rs1.8 billion throughout Sindh, which is a meagre amount. He gave an example of Banglore city in India where Rs40 billion is collected under the head of property tax, whereas from Karachi only Rs1.7 billion is collected.
Shah said not presenting the new National Finance Commission (NFC) award is a failure on the part of the federal government. Speaking about the funds transferred from the federal government, he said Sindh was supposed to receive Rs493 billion from the Centre in the 2016-17 fiscal year but the latter had cut around Rs68 billion from it.
“The federal government has yet to release Rs108 billion [from the amount that is left] by the end of June, but it does not seem likely that they will,” he lamented.
Regarding Ramazan Package, the CM said the provincial government has earmarked Rs3.4 billion that will be distributed among 1.7 million deserving underprivileged people registered under the Benazir Income Support Programme. “Each beneficiary will be given Rs2,000,” he said.
The CM held K-Electric, the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company and Sukkur Electric Power Company responsible for the hours-long load-shedding in the province. “All power utility companies have failed to deliver and the situation may get out of control if people take to streets against them,” he warned.