KARACHI: The Sindh government passed on Tuesday a supplementary budget worth Rs71 billion for the outgoing fiscal year, 2018-19, rejecting all the cut motions of the opposition parties to reduce the non-development expenditure. The budget for the new fiscal year, 2019-20, will be passed today [Wednesday].
Moving the supplementary budget for the outgoing year, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah presented around 66 demands for grants. “We need additional funds for various departments and request this House to pass it.”
The amount pertains to expenditures of the Chief Minister House, Governor’s House and the expenses incurred by various government departments.
Though the opposition members did not raise their eyebrows over demand no. 1 moved for an additional Rs966,000 for the Governor’s House, they moved nine cut motions seeking reductions in the expenditures of the CM House.
As the CM moved demand no. 2, requesting the House to grant an additional amount of Rs222.8 million for the CM House, Nusrat Seher Abbasi of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) moved a motion to cut Rs1 million and said, “This is a huge amount under which CM has to write off loans and grant subsidies,” said the CM. “The government has already spent unjustified funds in the outgoing year and the additional amount will put further burden on the economy,” she said. Abbasi moved another cut motion and requested to reduce Rs50 million from the expenses of the helicopter being used by the Sindh government. The assembly, however, rejected her cut motion.
The cut motions of Shahayar Mahar and Nand Kumar Goklani of GDA and Sidra Imran of the PTI to reduce the CM House’s expenses were also rejected.
In another motion, CM moved another grant worth Rs18 billion to meet the expenditures for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019. “This amount is needed for pensions and funds for retired employees,” said the CM.
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Despite opposition members’ cut motions, not a single penny was reduced and this grant was also passed with majority votes. Similarly, the grants of Sindh Revenue Board, Excise and Taxation, anti-corruption establishment, energy department, local government, youth affairs, information and archives, jails, food department, public health and engineering department, planning and development etc were passed after rejecting 73 cut motions of the joint opposition members.
Addressing the floor of the assembly, CM Shah said that the amount recovered by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in plea bargains and volunteer returns from other provinces was much higher than the amount recovered from Sindh. “Even then, Sindh is being branded as the most corrupt province in the country which is quite deplorable,” he said.
In his over two-hour-long speech, Shah touched upon various issues relating to the budget and also responded to the opposition’s criticism.
In response to the questions raised by the leader of the opposition in his budget speech earlier, the CM said that the federal government had informed the Sindh government at the start of its tenure that Sindh would be given Rs665b. In June, the federal government disclosed that Sindh would be given Rs632 billion. This amount was revised again to Rs492b at the end of this month. “This shows a shortfall of Rs173 billion if the actual figures of Rs665 billion are taken into account,” he said, adding that the Centre still owed Rs126 billion to Sindh.
Shah said that he wanted to give a raise of 25% in the salaries of government employees but due to the financial crunch, he could only offer a 15%, raise which would put an additional burden of Rs26 billion on the provincial exchequer. He added that he had enhanced the operative expenditures budget from Rs102b in 2018-19 to Rs106b in 2019-20.
Complaints with the Centre
According to the CM, the federal government had fixed the GDP growth at 6.2% and had now revised it to 3.3%. He doubted, however, that they would be able to achieve that either.
He said that inflation rate during the PTI government’s tenure had reached 9.7% and the US dollar had reached Rs157. The stock market too had dropped from 42,000 points to 35,000 points. “These indicators of the national economy show your [PTI govt’s] inefficiency in handling the economy,” he said.
Shah said that the federal government had deleted 36 schemes of Sindh from its PSDP. “Last year, three chief ministers had boycotted the CCI meeting but this year the prime minister himself boycotted it,” he said.
The chief minister said that federal government has allocated Rs12 billion for different development schemes of Karachi. These include Rs2.5 billion for Green Line project, construction of Jam Chakro Road, construction of a flyover on Sher Shah Suri Road, construction of flyover on Jinnah Avenue, construction of Dum Loti Road and others. He lamented that the K-IV project has been ignored by the federal government in its new budget.
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Speaking about the Karachi Circular Railway, Shah said that he had approached the Nawaz Sharif-led federal government to give the Right of Way for KCR to the Sindh government, hand over the KUTC to Sindh government and also give the same financial package to KCR as it had given to the Green Line in Lahore. The prime minister agreed but advised to talk to the Ministry of railway for the right of way.
The chief minister said that in contrast to the federal government’s Rs12b, the provincial government has allocated Rs61 billion for different development schemes of Karachi.
Responding to an observation of the opposition leader, Shah said that the provincial government had sent an audit report to the Sindh Governor to lay it in the assembly but it had still not been laid. This correspondence was between the assembly secretariat and the Governor, he said.
Comparing corruption in other provinces with Sindh, the chief minister said that in in 2017, there were 114 cases of plea bargain in KP amounting to Rs1.27 billion, 46 cases of Rs1.337 billion in Balochistan, 170 cases of Rs1.59 billion in Punjab and 69 cases of Rs1.53 billion in Sindh, which include a case of EOBI of Rs853 million - the EOBI is a federal institution. This shows the least number of plea bargain cases emerged in Sindh, he pointed out.
Earlier, opposition leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi criticised the provincial budget and said, “How can a government, that can’t lift the garbage, resolve people’s issues?” he questioned. Speaking about police reforms, Naqvi said, “It has been 30 years since the Rangers are deployed in the province. No one has taken an interest to bring reforms in the police where appointments and transfer are made purely on political grounds.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2019.