Caretaker tax collection claim disputed

K-P adviser claims the revenues dropped instead

Our Correspondent March 18, 2024
The tax authorities attribute the monthly collection shortfall to the interim finance minister’s drive to restructure the FBR, which they claim shifted focus away from the core goal of meeting tax collection targets. photo: AFP


Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Advisor to the Chief Minister on Finance, Muzamal Aslam, has highlighted a significant decline in tax collection under the caretaker provincial government, indicating a 50% drop.

Speaking to the media, he refuted claims by the caretaker chief minister regarding the state of the provincial exchequer, asserting that while it wasn’t entirely empty, the funds left were not accurately represented.

Contrary to assertions of an empty treasury, Aslam stated that the caretaker government possessed adequate funds to sustain operations but failed to effectively collect taxes, undermining revenue generation efforts. He questioned the cessation of the Sehat Card program, which had been instrumental in benefiting marginalized communities, suggesting that the purportedly large funds available should have sustained such initiatives.

Regarding government borrowing, Aslam noted substantial loans acquired over the past decade, with additional agreements inked with international organizations, such as the World Bank, totaling significant financial commitments. Furthermore, he emphasized the pending payments owed by the Center to the province under the net hydal profit agreement.

Addressing concerns over the development of newly merged districts, Aslam revealed delays in the disbursement of funds allocated by the Center for this purpose. Despite assurances of financial support, little progress had been made, with salaries ballooning from Rs66 billion to Rs110 billion annually, burdening the provincial budget.

Accusing the opposition alliance and the caretaker government of inaction, Aslam criticized their failure to address the financial challenges affecting the newly merged districts. He highlighted outstanding payments for the Sehat Card Plus initiative, which had been neglected for a year, resulting in the suspension of essential healthcare services for the underprivileged.

To address the lapse, Aslam announced a reinstatement of free treatment under the Sehat Card Plus scheme, with a commitment to clear outstanding dues amounting to Rs5 billion monthly. Despite past financial constraints, the provincial government pledged a substantial allocation of Rs22 billion for the Sehat Card program in the current fiscal year.

Aslam underscored the caretaker government’s failure to honor financial obligations towards crucial projects initiated by the PTI government, such as the Sehat Card Plus initiative. Despite its significance in providing essential healthcare, the project faced funding cuts under the caretaker administration, illustrating a disregard for the welfare of the populace.

In December last year, the caretaker government’s decision to reduce the budget allocation for the Sehat Card Plus program exacerbated financial difficulties, further straining healthcare access for vulnerable communities.

Talking to The Express Tribune an official of the health department said that several categories for the treatment were being introduced and data of the families living below poverty line is being obtained from NADRA after consultation with the Benezir Income Support Program (BISP).

“It has also been decided that small surgeries like tonsillitis, appendix and C section will be performed in public sector hospitals only,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2024


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