Listing priorities: Sindh wants development budget up by 10%

MQM says it will oppose any new tax in the new budget.


Hafeez Tunio May 22, 2011

KARACHI:


The Sindh government wants to increase the development budget by 10 per cent, bringing the total allocation to Rs85 billion, said Provincial Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah on Saturday.


He was briefing the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) lawmakers on the budget inside a committee room of the Sindh Assembly.

Even though the government had allocated Rs115 billion in the Annual Development Budget for this year, the flash floods swept it down to Rs77 billion, he said. The main reason why only 40 per cent funds could be utilised is because the federal government did not release the money on time.

The minister assured that roads, education, agriculture, health and coal are among the priorities in the coming budget. New schemes worth Rs20 billion have been added and the government also plans to build 400,000 houses in 200 villages. For towns development, Rs4 billion have been set aside. “A unique scheme will be started in different towns where plots will be given to flood survivors and Rs10 billion have been allocated,” Shah said.

Thar is also going to have its own airport as the government has earmarked Rs972 million for its construction.

Shah was, however, unsure if the government is going to increase the salaries of government employees. “We are looking forward to seeking the decision of the federal government, which will be implemented in the provinces as well,” he said.

During the meeting, the MQM delegation opposed any kind of new tax in the budget and said that the government has kept them in the dark over the process of revising the budget after the floods. They said that they were not aware of how the development budget this year has been utilised.

“The government has not achieved its tax targets. It is very unfortunate that only Rs26 billion, of the Rs77 billion, have been spent. We have no idea how the government will utilise the remaining funds in only one month,” MQM Parliamentary Leader Sardar Ahmed said.

The federal government has yet to release around Rs26 billion to the provincial government which means several projects can stop any time, he pointed out.

An official said that the MQM took a stand on the issue of the K-4 project, under which 1,200 cusecs of extra water will be supplied to Karachi from the Indus River. Since the scheme was not included in the budget, the MQM members insisted the government add it. Later, it was decided that a committee will be set up to look into the matter. Nevertheless, Shah assured them that the project will be included.

MQM MPA Amir Moin Pirzada told The Express Tribune that they made it clear that they will oppose any new tax in the budget. “The finance minister assured us that the government will collect general sales tax on services from next year,” he said. “The government has reportedly developed a mechanism to collect the tax and a bill will also be passed in the Sindh Assembly during the pre-budget session.”

Quoting the finance minister, he said that those schemes that were dropped last year will be included as new schemes in the coming budget.

An official in the Sindh planning and development department said that there was some confusion on the allocation of the development budget. While Adviser to CM on Planning and Development Dr Kaisar Bengali suggested something else, the additional chief secretary, Ishaq Lashari, ordered them to make another budget. “Lashari issued a circular for a 10-per-cent increase in the budget before the flood - Rs115 billion - but the adviser wanted the same increase in the revised budget - Rs77 billion.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2011.

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