KARACHI: Despite protests from the opposition benches, the government passed on Tuesday the Rs1.44 trillion budget for the financial year 2018-19 in the Sindh Assembly by approving Rs110 billion supplementary grants for the outgoing year 2017-18.
After the eight-day debate on the budget, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, who also holds the portfolio of the finance ministry, moved a motion to pass the annual and supplementary budget. Opposition lawmakers from different political parties presented around 350 cut motions to curtail some non-development expenditure from the budget, but all the motions were rejected with the majority votes of treasury benches.
Winding up the budget debate, the CM said Karachi was previously in the grip of constant fear, but the city was now free of devils who had earlier made its people hostage. The CM censured those who wanted to divide Sindh and carve out another province from it. "Sindh for centuries is united and no one can dare to bifurcate it," he said.
In his two-and-a-half-hour-long speech, Shah criticised the opposition parties for 'irrational discussion' on budget. "The entire Sindh belongs to me, be it rural or urban. I am not the chief minister of a particular area or a district," he asserted.
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Mentioning the House rules, the CM said five days were fixed for post budget debate in the session but the Sindh government allowed opposition members to continue the debate for eight days.
The CM alleged that the National Economic Council, the body that approves the federal budget, mistreated Sindh in the budget as the province was given only Rs150 billion for new schemes against its requirement of Rs400 billion. "We were supposed to get Rs27 billion for water schemes but Rs330 million were given," Shah said, adding that the federal government had to allocate Rs26 billion for energy projects in Sindh but it only gave Rs125 million.
"Our opposition members should criticise the federal government for not giving funds to Sindh, which contributes 70% of the total national exchequer," the CM said. He maintained that his government was going to finish around 721 schemes during the current fiscal year and had kept funds for 958 schemes which would be completed by the next government in the fiscal year 2018-19.
The CM claimed that the law and order situation in Karachi and other parts of the province had completely been brought under control. "Five years ago, there was reign of terror in Karachi and development was not possible [in the city]. We have now rooted this out, thus, [reverting] Karachi [to its] old glory," he remarked.
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Commenting on the judicial commission on water and sanitation, the CM said the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) had summoned him and he himself appeared before the apex court rather than sending any of his representatives. "I briefed the CJP about the problems and government interventions," he said.
Responding to the speech of Opposition Leader Khawaja Izharul Hasan, Shah remarked that there was nothing in his speech except fake allegations and rhetoric. "I always ask lawmakers to study the budget books rather than indulging in meaningless talk," he said.
"Khawaja sahib's claims that the Sindh government spent Rs1,500 billion in the last five years are totally baseless. We have spent Rs833 billion from 2008 onwards," he said, adding that he was prepared to give details of each and every project from Karachi to Kashmore.
Quoting the agricultural development budget, the CM claimed that the budget had been enhanced from Rs2 billion in current fiscal year to Rs7.5 billion.
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Kandhkot-Ghotki Bridge on the Indus River is an approximately Rs10 billion project, Shah said, adding that a detailed feasibility study for the bridge had already been initiated.
Lauding the health facilities offered by the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD), the CM claimed that it was the biggest institution that treated heart diseases in the country. "The Sindh government helped the NICVD establish satellite centres in Tando Muhammad Khan, Larkana, Hyderabad and Sehwan. These modern and well equipped cardiac facilities are providing free of charge services and cardiac emergency care [throughout the day]."
"Three more NICVD centres will be made functional at Nawabshah, Khairpur and Mithi this year. Grant for the NICVD has been enhanced from Rs5.77 billion to Rs8.09 billion," he said.
Talking about health facilities for children in the province, the CM said his government had set up child wards in different public hospitals in Karachi and other districts of Sindh where free treatment was being provided to children. The Sindh government is going to launch specialised wards for children in Sukkur, Hyderabad, Larkana and other districts, he said.
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Shah also highlighted development works carried out by his government in Karachi. He named Sharae Faisal, Submarine Underpass, Tipu Sultan Bridge, Sunset Boulevard Bridge, Jahangir Park, Drigh Road Underpass, Manzil Pump Flyover, Cantt Station Road, Tariq Road, University Road and other projects that had been constructed or renovated by the Pakistan Peoples Party government in its current tenure. "Sharae Faisal was built by our leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. No one considered its revamping and reconstruction. We have now done it," he said, adding that the PPP government also revamped the sanitation system of Saddar and other old city areas after 50 years.
The CM also claimed that the treasury benches provided a level playing field to the opposition. "I remember a year when only two resolutions of opposition parties pertaining to NFC [National Finance Commission] Award and Great Thal Canal were adopted," he said. "We now provide equal opportunities to the opposition and do not impose any embargo as it was done earlier."
Shah criticised the Pakistan Muslim League - Functional leadership for historically supporting dictators and favouring the construction of Kalabagh Dam. "For the first time in the history of Sanghar, we have provided a line of drinking water to people and built roads in the district," he claimed.
The House passed the budget after the CM concluded his speech. The speaker adjourned the session till tomorrow (Thursday).