The opposition in Punjab Assembly on Tuesday blasted the government over what it said unnecessary expenditures on its expenses and no relief for common man in the supplementary budget of fiscal year 2016-17.
PML-Q MPA Vickas Hassan Mokal speaking in the House on the day for the general discussion of Supplementary Budget 2016-17 said the government was not providing generous amount for the relief of farmers in the budget. PTI MPA Shunila Ruth meanwhile complained that the concept of supplementary budget was not a good exercise and showed that the government lacked good planning to envision expenditures for the upcoming year. Ruth added that the supplementary budget served emergency and unforeseen expenses instead of funding VIP protocol and expenses of Chief Minister Houses in the province. She questioned as to why the government was asking for more funds in the supplementary budget when in fact the annual budget of last year was not fully utilised.
In Saarc member countries, said the PTI MPA, the supplementary budget was not more than 3 percent of the total budget but in Punjab, the supplementary budget this year was 10.3 percent of the annual budget. She dismissed the Chief Minister Relief Package of 20.609 billion rupees and said farmers in the province were suffering at the hands of import and smuggling of Indian vegetables and the water and electricity crisis in Punjab. Ruth condemned the 54.50 billion rupees allocated for the Orange Line Metro Train project in the supplementary budget along with 70.468 billion rupees in subsidy to sugar mills in the supplementary budget. The PTI MPA called out the government for expenditures amounting to 75 lakh rupees per day on the security of CM House in Model Town which was 17 percent more than that allocated in the previous year. She expressed her disappointment over the fact that no funds were allocated for religious minorities in the supplementary budget.
Her colleague PTI MPA Nausheen Hamid said overspending in the development sector was apparent whereas the Annual Development Budget of last year had lapsed. She pointed out that large amount of funds were allocated for construction of ring roads and interchanges, purchase of nine Toyota cars for members of the sub-committee on law and law minister, and appointment of consultants for Balochistan Cardiology Institute in Quetta in the supplementary budget which was unwarranted. Hamid also noted the government had failed to curb hepatitis in the province in spite of the Prime Minister’s campaign in addition to maternal and child mortality in spite of funds being allocated for their control and elimination.
PTI MPA Mian Aslam Iqbal in his speech demanded that audits of previous budgets be issued and circulated in the House for eliciting opinion. Iqbal claimed that funds were taken from the budgets of health, police and education and re-appropriated for other expenditures in the supplementary budget without taking the House in confidence. During his speech, PML-N MPA Farzana Butt called Iqbal a Musharraf’s supporter and this led to Iqbal stated that he had not shied away from his past and that was at least straightforward unlike his counterparts across the aisle.
PML-N MPA Shehzad Munshi complained that there was no standing committee on minorities’ affairs to submit recommendations for the budget and funds for scholarships for minority students for this year had not been released.
JI MPA Dr Syed Waseem Akhtar who staged a token walkout said Bahawalpur district was suffering from neglect with no funds being allocated in the supplementary budget and only funds for two roads being given in the Annual Budget.
Akhtar said the amounts allocated for the judiciary were unwarranted as there was no marked improvement in law and order.
PTI MPA Taimur Masood informed the House that he was member of a parliamentary austerity committee devised on the orders of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and of which current Finance Minister Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha to make recommendations to reduce government spending. The committee, said Masood, had recommended that a ban be placed on foreign travel of ministers, assembly members, and government officials in addition to a ban on purchase of new vehicles.
Masood said the government had detracted from this as seen in the supplementary budget. PPP MPA Qazi Ahmed Saeed complained of the neglect of South Punjab in the budget and said huge amounts of funds were being allocated for the Jati Umra residence and CM Houses. His counterpart PTI MPA Nabeela Hakim Ali complained that purchase of equipment for Chief Minister’s video link conferences was costly along with the 140 million rupees kept for upkeep of Governor House and allowances of 50 million rupees for CM Secretariat.
PPP MPA Faiza Ahmed Malik talked of the still to be functional Kidney and Liver Institute which had been allocated four billion rupees in the current budget and the lack of funds for Rescue 1122 Emergency Service which was appealing for Zakat donations to fund its daily expenditures. Meanwhile, PML-Q MPA Khadija Umar said 68 lakhs rupees were being spent on security protocol of cabinet members and 45 lakhs rupees had been spent to entertain visiting Turkish parliamentarians in the city. The House will resume on Wednesday (today).