A day after revealing the budget on the floor of the provincial assembly, Finance Minister Sirajul Haq on Tuesday said the government’s debt has crossed Rs132 billion during the current fiscal year (2012-2013).
“In December 2006, the debt stood at Rs60 billion during the then Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). Now, due to a rising fiscal deficit and shortfall in tax revenue, it has crossed Rs132 billion,” Haq said during a post-budget press briefing at Civil Secretariat Peshawar. The press conference was also attended by Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai and Finance Secretary Sahibzada Saeed Ahmed, among other officials.
“The last government in the province doubled the debt figure during its tenure,” Haq said, blaming the Awami National Party (ANP)-led coalition government for the massive difference. He also blamed the ANP-led government for failing to cut down on expenditures. Implying that the former government’s legislators lived lavishly, he said the incumbent government would introduce austerity measures to support the feeble economy.
Long standing debate
However, Haq held the federal government responsible for most of the province’s financial woes. “The centre is also reluctant to give outstanding dues in net hydel profits, as per the decision of the Arbitration Tribunal.”
He said all political parties, in and outside parliament, would be taken into confidence over the issue. “We don’t want any confrontation with the federal government, but the issue should be resolved through negotiations and talks.”
He said the energy crisis could not be neglected any longer, adding that it is the most serious matter presently confronting the province. “With the completion of various power projects in K-P, more than 50,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity would be generated,” he claimed, stressing the centre should extend all possible support in this regard.
“As the largest producer of electricity, K-P should be exempted from load-shedding,” urged Haq, adding: “We will not tolerate any unscheduled load-shedding in the province.”
“We need to bring changes in our own political attitude if we want the dream of ‘Naya Pakistan’ to materialise. The country’s future development depends on more than 180 million people. We will build a good image of Pakistan so that the green passport is respected in the world,” Haq said. “People voted for change and we going to show them exactly that.”
The finance minister said the government has made sufficient allocations for health and education sectors, and the ‘education emergency’ in the province is to yield positive results. He added the government has allocated 28% of the funds for education to achieve all its targets in the province.
Terming the new financial proposal a “welfare and developmental budget”, Haq said the Annual Development Programme (ADP) has been increased by 12% to Rs118 billion. He informed Rs14 billion has also been allocated for the development and revival of the provincial capital.
“We are expecting great performance from more than 0.4 million government employees in the province after the 15% increase in salaries,” he said, adding the government would also fully exploit mineral resources.
Replying to a question on the fiscal deficit, Finance Secretary Sahibzada Saeed Ahmed confirmed the province was facing a deficit of more than Rs40 billion in the current fiscal year. He, however, claimed the situation was under control as a major portion of the ADP could not be utilised.
He explained the allocation for ADP in 2012-2013 was Rs97 billion, but so far only Rs48 billion has been utilised. Saeed added the government would be in a better position to comment on the deficit by the end of June.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2013.