Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Finance Minister Sirajul Haq has hinted at a tax-free provincial budget.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Haq, who belongs to the Jamaat-e-Islami, further said the incumbent coalition government will ensure free education is provided to all. The government will also bear cost of treatment for diseases which have high medical expenses. “We will invest in education and health, not on constructing new buildings.”
Haq disclosed that outlay of the province’s share in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2013-14 has been slashed by Rs9 billion.
“K-P’s share of PSDP for the ongoing year stood at Rs93.5 billion; however, it will be close to Rs84 billion for the next financial year,” he said, adding only R4 billion of the Rs93.5 billion has been released so far.
The minster pointed out 20 areas in the province, which have hydel power generation potential. He said the provincial government will also try to get foreign investment for these projects.
The government will use most of its resources on smaller, hydel-power generation projects to ease the power crisis. About proceeds from the net hydel profit, Siraj said the K-P government will take other parties on board to ensure the province gets its due share.
He said the provincial government will sit with other parties after the budget and try to evolve a joint response on the matter, adding the previous Awami National Party had failed to get the province its share of the profits.
“It will not be an effort aimed at point scoring, rather, to attain the province’s due rights and for that purpose we will first try to negotiate the issue with the federal government. If the centre fails to deliver, then there is also the option of taking the matter to court,” he said.
Haq said both the government and the public should take a united stand against drone attacks. He added the province will back the prime minister on any decision he makes with respect to the drone strikes.
Speaking about the withdrawal of security forces from Malakand, Siraj said the decision on the matter will be taken after consulting the security establishment and federal government. “The withdrawal of forces is a public demand; however, to achieve this we have to strengthen our police force and civilian administration, and it has to be done in phases,” he said
Siraj said insurgency in Malakand cost losses worth Rs82 billion, but the previous government only issued Rs2 billion. Funds have not been allocated for the recovery of the area in this budget.
Taxing trade/ Remittances
Siraj hinted that a proposal will be placed before the provincial cabinet about taxing Afghan transit trade. “We are reviewing legal aspects of taxing the trade in order to increase the province’s resources,” he said.
He said the provincial government was trying to evolve a mechanism so that overseas Pakistanis can send their remittances through the Bank of Khyber (BoK).
Separately, Siraj also said the local body elections will be held as soon as possible.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2013.