Recently, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) finance minister accused the federal government of “shortchanging the province and exacerbating its financial crisis” (Express Tribune, March 23). According to him, very little of the Public Sector Development Programme allocation for the province has been spent. He claimed the federal government also transferred less than the budgeted National Finance Commission (NFC) share. The minister cannot be ignorant of the fact that the provincial shares in NFC are fixed in percentages applied to actual tax collections. Only Balochistan is allowed a share based on projected tax collection. These shares are automatically credited to the provinces by the State Bank of Pakistan. The federal government has no role in it. Criticising it for failing to meet its targets of tax collection would, however, be fair.
It was interesting to hear a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami drawing a parallel between the neglect of erstwhile East Pakistan and K-P. He had better look into his own backyard first. In the first six months of the current year, the K-P government’s total revenue was Rs132.5 billion. Out of this, Rs106.8 billion was the provincial share in federal revenue and Rs13.5 billion in federal loans and grants. Total expenditure at Rs99.7 billion was far less than the revenue –– incurred mostly on the current side. Development expenditure was a mere Rs14.5 billion out of a total allocation of Rs83.3 billion and release of Rs37.7 billion. The expenditure comes to Rs2.4 billion a month. In comparison to the period last year, Rs17.2 billion were spent only on the so-called pro-poor development expenditure alone.
It shows that his government is slower than its predecessor in utilising available resources for its own people. He might say that present government is taking its time because it want to check corruption. There will be zero corruption if you don’t spend at all! As it is, there will be a rush to spend towards the end of the fiscal year to avoid lapsing of budget allocations, creating far more opportunities for corruption than properly-phased expenditure over the year. The issue is that the K-P government has been too slow in putting in place the promised systems of accountability and transparency. As many as 378 projects included in the Annual Development Programme were unapproved. These are projects the provincial government wanted to initiate to make its presence felt, but without the necessary intellectual and professional preparedness.
Not all news from K-P is bad. The Sehat ka Insaf programme is innovative and other provinces are contemplating its replication. The Right to Information Act is probably the best in the country. One understands that political interference in the police department is now limited. An MPA can ask for the transfer of a police officer of his disliking, but cannot replace him by an officer of his liking. An excellent draft bill on higher education is ready, but traditional vested interests are delaying its passage. Legislation on local government comes closest to the concept of taking governance to the grass roots. Whether elections can be held in April is another matter. Transparent elections are a major plank of the PTI programme. For reasons not hard to understand, the federal government is dilly-dallying to provide the required funding to the Election Commission of Pakistan for the biometric system. If the K-P government is serious in demonstrating that fair polling is not impossible, it should make available its own funding.
There is much that the K-P government can claim credit for, but the economy is not one of them. The economy is neither a fertiliser factory nor a sugar mill. The PTI’s overrated entrepreneurs failed their own calling in refusing to accept the challenge of managing the Peshawar Electric Supply Company.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2014.
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