ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has kept a phenomenal amount of Rs22 billion at his discretion in the ‘election’ budget to spend on development projects of his choice in the coming months before going to polls.
Besides, he has also allocated a sum of Rs5 billion for distribution among his party MPs for undertaking development schemes in their respective constituencies to buoy up their electoral prospects, a budget document incorporating the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) under the title of “Special programmes” showed.
Funds amounting to Rs22 bn were placed under the People’s Works Programme-II (PWP), which will be at the prime minister’s discretion to spend. Last year, he kept Rs28 bn at his disposal that he totally consumed.
Similarly, a sum of Rs5 bn was put under the PWP-I, which will be meant for allotment to the ruling coalition members of parliament, who are already getting a lot of money for their areas.
The controversial PWP was introduced by the first Benazir Bhutto government, which led to innumerable scandals, irregularities and discrepancies. The following administration abolished it. However, it was again restored by the second Benazir government.
In the outgoing year, Gilani spent discretionary funds in the name of development schemes at an unprecedented pace. An amount of Rs2.891 bn was released in its first three months compared to just Rs200 million in the same period of the last financial year, registering an increase of 1,345.50 percent.
The startling hike was officially shown in the finance ministry data in its report on pro-poor expenditures. The second highest increase was registered by development schemes of MPs in the shape of PWP-1 where the released amount was 892 percent higher in the current fiscal year compared to the corresponding period of the previous fiscal.
The official data disclosed that the beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) declined by 48 percent in July-Sept 2011-12 compared to the same period of the last year because of abandoning of the list of recipients recommended by MPs and shifting them on the basis of poverty scorecard done on the advice of World Bank.
The data showed that the decline in spending on social security and welfare was attributable to considerable decline in the expenditures of two programmes i.e. Benazir Income Support Programme and Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (48.66 and 24.9 percent respectively).
The cash grant disbursements under the BISP registered a decline of 48 percent from Rs12.01 bn in the first quarter of financial year 2010-11 to Rs6.21 bn during the same period this year. Similarly, beneficiaries also decreased by 29 percent, from 3.75 million to 2.66 million. The reason for the drastic decline in the amount disbursed and consequently in the number of beneficiaries is the removal of giving cash grants through the MPs and shifting completely to disbursing grants to families who qualified for the poverty scorecard. Cash grants are given through poverty scorecard except for Balochistan and tribal areas, where the survey regarding the families qualifying for BISP has not yet been completed.