KARACHI: Having failed to use around a quarter of the funds allocated for development schemes in the province, the Sindh government is pointing fingers at the Centre for 'not fulfilling its promises'. The provincial government claims it could have completed all of its planned development schemes had the federal government released the province's share on time.
Throwing around fat numbers and grand plans at the post-budget conference at the Chief Minister House on Sunday, finance minister Murad Ali Shah said that his department had written several letters to its federal counterpart, seeking the release of funds. "The federal government should fulfill its promises to provinces," he urged, adding that all financial affairs, including development schemes, were largely dependent on the money disbursed by the Centre.
Sharing details of Sindh's share in the divisible pool, straight transfers and grants, Shah said that his department could release money for most of the ongoing schemes if Rs65 billion was given to the province as soon as possible.
For the most part, the finance minister's speech was a collection of age-old rhetoric and no-brainers. That Sindh would spend the largest chunk of the budget on non-developmental expenditures, such as salaries, was a given. "We can't run government affairs without expenditures such as salaries and fuel." He said that around Rs325 billion will be spent on salaries and pensions of employees.
"The main focus is on education," explained Shah, adding that Rs144 billion have been set aside for the education sector, followed by Rs65 billion for law and order.
Shah said that the provincial government has allocated Rs213.6 billion for development schemes, including Rs162 billion for the provincial annual development programme. In the current fiscal year, the federal government was supposed to give Rs22.5 billion, but it only gave Rs9.5 billion. "We hope the federal government will not stop the funds meant for mega development projects this year."
Shah has asked the secretaries of all provincial departments not to plan schemes that cannot be allocated at least 25 per cent of funds of its total estimation. "We won't approve such schemes," he warned.
Shah said that those incomplete schemes that needed less than Rs25million will also be finished this year, adding that 100 per cent funds will be released for the most important schemes. "We will complete around 600 ongoing schemes by the end of the next financial year."
In response to a question regarding the distribution of funds between rural and urban areas, especially for Karachi, Shah said: "There is no discrimination for any city. Karachi is my city too." He said that Rs50 billion have been allocated for different schemes in the provincial capital, including K-IV, and the mass transit system.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2015.
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