The Sindh government is set to present its budget today (Tuesday), with 171 new schemes for the health department and an enhanced development portfolio. Besides, the provincial government has decided to increase 25 per cent salaries of government employees.
The budget will be presented by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, who also holds the charge of finance minister.
The total outlay of the budget is estimated at over Rs1,300 billion with around Rs280b allocated for the development portfolio. However, in the outgoing year [2020-21] that is going to end by this month, Sindh unveiled a total Rs1,241.13b budget with Rs232b allocated for the Annual Development Programme (ADP).
"For coming financial year, the total development portfolio including provincial, districts, foreign funded projects may hit Rs300 billion," said an official working in finance department, adding that the final decision would be made by the Sindh cabinet, which is scheduled to meet today to approve budget proposals.
According to officials, the Sindh government had earlier decided to increase the salaries of government employees by 15 per cent as compared to the 10 per cent increase announced by the federal government, but it has now been revised to 25 per cent.
In the budget proposal, the government has allocated around Rs18b development budget for the health sector and Rs14b for development schemes for the education department. This excludes the non-development sector budget of both the departments.
Read more: Punjab govt presents Rs2.65tr budget
No new taxes
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah while speaking to the media on Monday said that there would be no new tax levied in the upcoming budget. Instead, it will be a development oriented budget. "For the last five years, the federal government has not released more than Rs400b from Sindh's due share in the divisible poll. How can we meet our targets when we are not given funds from our share?" Shah asked.
Funds yet to be utilised
Although tall claims are made in the budget every year, the utilisation of development funds appears to be a challenge for the government.
The current fiscal year's [2020-21] budget, where the Sindh government had promised to spend its own Rs170b development fund, stands as an example.
Apart from this, Rs8b were allocated for federally sponsored projects and Rs54b estimated for foreign-funded projects. It meant that the total expenditure for development stood at Rs232b, half of which has not been utilised in the past 11 months.
According to the finance department's progress report, there is zero per cent utilisation of funds on dozens of projects in the education, health, transport, minorities and women development departments.
Promises on paper
"The budget is jugglery of words. This is the 13th consecutive year of the Pakistan Peoples Party's rule in Sindh, but they have not utilised 50 per cent of development budget in any year," said Leader of the Opposition in Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Shaikh, alleging that the funds directly go into the pockets of the PPP leadership.
"Not a single scheme is being launched in opposition members' constituencies. The PPP-led Sindh government has set a precedent of discriminating against political opponents. Karachi is the capital of Sindh, where the people have given the mandate to either the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan. This is why Sindh government is punishing citizens by not launching mega schemes for the city," alleged Haleem.
However, Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah rejected the opposition's claims and said that the Sindh government has given more to Karachi and others. He said that the Malir Expressway, roads projects, treatment plans and other schemes have been kept for Karachi in upcoming budget.
"People want to know about Prime minister Imran Khan's Rs1100b package for Karachi. Where did it go? Why did not they release the funds," asked Shah, adding that PTI leaders should demand of the PTI-led federal government in the Centre to release funds for the development of Sindh and live up to their pledge rather than criticising the provincial government.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15h, 2021.