Unhappy MPAs point to budgeting problems


Hafeez Tunio June 15, 2010

KARACHI: “Why is the law and order situation in the province so terrible if the government allocated as much as Rs29.6 billion for police in the budget this year?” asked Shahryar Mahar, a PML-Q MPA. Mahar was not the only one complaining. Monday’s session of the Sindh Assembly was full of unhappy MPAs accusing the government of insufficient funds and mismanagement.

Mahar said that the government is trying to underplay the seriousness of the law and order situation. He said he was not hopeful about the prospect of any improvement in the province’s security situation, adding that the government had not been able to fulfill its tall claims of security for all citizens with its previous budget and that no one should expect a different outcome this time.

The MPA felt that the judiciary has been intervening in public matters because the government was failing to do its job.

Meanwhile, Heer Ismali Soho of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) criticised the government for neglecting districts such as Thatta and Badin.  She said that Rs422 billion have been allocated along with Rs115 billion under the Annual Development Plan (ADP) but no special schemes have been proposed for the districts.

She also pointed out that while government employees got a 50 per cent raise in their salaries, there was no increase in the pension of retired employees.

Jail reforms

Mahar further questioned the allocation for jail reforms across the province. “The government is talking of jail reforms but how can it be done with just Rs200 million?” he questioned.

Pointing out that Rs4.2 billion have been allocated for Larkana and an additional Rs1.2 billion for the next year, Mahar accused the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) of being biased towards the hometown of their former chairperson Benazir Bhutto.

He felt that the PPP was discriminating against Sindh’s other districts, such as Tharparkar, Badin and Thatta, by allotting more money for Larkana. No project has been initiated in the agriculture sector while tourism has been neglected as well, added Mahar.

He appreciated the government’s plan to make use of Thar’s coal reserves but pointed out that the contract to build an airstrip in Thar had been given to the same company that had built the Shershah Bridge in Karachi, which had collapsed soon after construction.

MPAs’ proposed projects ignored

Muzamil Qureshi of MQM criticised the bureaucracy, complaining that they had not included many people’s schemes in the ADP. “I had submitted around 13 schemes, but none of them were included in the plan,” he said. He quoted reports which stated that hardly 50 per cent of the amount allocated in ADP is utilised but the bureaucracy still refuses to consider his projects.

“Many schemes were even recommended by standing committees and the provincial cabinet, but they were not included in the budget,” he lamented.

He said that allocation of Rs16 billion for Karachi is not sufficient to continue development projects in the city. He also cautioned the government against its decision to establish the Sindh Bank, saying that the provincial banks set up in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were not doing well. Qureshi also recommended imposing agriculture tax on growers earning more than Rs300,000.

Meanwhile, other MPAs also complained that the standing committees’ recommendations for projects had been ignored, despite the fact that the Sindh chief minister and the president had also issued directives to include these projects.

The MPAs said that work on most of the projects that had started last year will be built by the middle of this financial year that will affect the development of the province as a whole.

Adil Khan of MQM, who is also the chairman of the standing committee on Information Technology, said that despite the recommendation of the committee and directives given by president, projects like Biometric Identification Phase II, Geographic Information System and Video Conferencing system could not be included in the ADP. “The projects were underway, but owing to a lack of funds they will not be continued now,” he added.

Members also complained that they had not yet received proper budget books and are hence unable to discuss the issues properly.

Sardar Ahmed, MQM’s parliamentary leader, said that a meeting of parliamentary parties should be held to make a strategy for a post-budget debate. He said that there is a dire need for serious discussion and five days are not sufficient.

Published in the Express Tribune, June 15th, 2010.

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