Finance Minister Ayesha Ghaus Pasha on Friday concluded the five-day budget debate at the Provincial Assembly with a 10-minute speech reaffirming the government’s resolve to strive for people’s welfare and development.
The minister made the remarks during a session of the PA that was chaired by Speaker Rana Iqbal. Pasha praised the lawmakers, especially the Opposition, for their contribution to the debate. She said the budget, which focused on development, education, health, agriculture, law and order and energy sectors, reflected the aspirations of people. Pasha rejected the Oppositions’ claim that the budget had been put together by the bureaucracy and was devoid of lawmakers’ input. “There is a difference between an architect and labourer,” she said. Pasha said the budget had been formulated by officials from the Planning and Development and Finance Departments according to the vision of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. She said recommendations put forward in the pre-budget session, by the Resource Mobilisation Committee and experts had also been incorporated.
The finance minister also addressed the reservations of the leader of the opposition, who was not present on the occasion, regarding the under-utilisation of funds. She said the government had been monitoring its performance in terms of the Annual Development Programme per month. Pasha said over 81 per cent of the development budget had been utilised by May 31. She said the figure had stood at 77.54 per cent at the same time last year. Pasha said the figure had increased to 92 per cent by June 2014. The finance minister said a perusal of the figures would show that the utilisation figure would cross 90 per cent by June this year too.
Pasha said Rs11 billion had been transferred to district governments for school education, special education, literacy and health. She said utilisation of funds stood at 93 per cent, 93.3, 87, 100 and 92 in the agriculture, schools education, higher education, special education and literacy sectors. Rejecting claims that progress on the Wazirabad Institute of Cardiology had been stalled as it was the brainchild of former chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahhi, Pasha said its OPD had been operating since December, 2014. She said progress had been made on hiring people against vacancies at the institute. Pasha said the revised PC-I of Mayo Hospital’s surgical tower had been approved. She said Rs300 million had been set aside for the project in the budget.
She said the Rs269 billion-allocation for local governments and the Rs12 billion-allocation for separate development schemes proved that local bodies were a priority of the government. She said the establishment of the Provincial Finance Commission and its award were another priority of the government.
Pasha also shed light on education and health reforms. She said Rs33 billion had been allocated for schools education under the Chief Minister’s Reforms Roadmap 2018. Pasha said great attention was being paid to primary healthcare under the programme’s auspices. She said Rs1.25 billion had been earmarked for the construction and repair of THQ and DHQ hospitals.
She said government hospitals in 10 districts would be handed over to private service providers to ensure the provision of quality healthcare. Pasha said initially the management of the facilities would be handed over to providers selected through a transparent process. Pasha ended her speech amid the sound of spirited desk-thumping coming from the treasury benches.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2015.