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June 12, 2016

Opposition rejects budget as ‘unrealistic and burdensome’


June 12, 2016


Opposition parties in the Sindh Assembly rejected the deficit budget presented by the provincial government on Saturday for the financial year 2016-17, saying it was unrealistic and unpromising, and would do nothing to overcome inefficiency and corruption rife in governance of the province.

Led by Leader of Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Khawaja Izharul Hassan of the MQM, the parliamentary leaders of other opposition parties said the budget was unacceptable to them as it would promise nothing concrete to the people regarding prosperity and development in their areas.

Talking to journalists after the presentation of the budget, Hassan said the entire opposition had decided to reject the new budget due to its beign unrealistic. Also, he said, the opposition rejected the new taxes envisaged in the proposed finance bill. 

The MQM leader said taxes were envisaged with a view to achieving welfare of the masses, but taxes in the finance bill of the province had been imposed to extort money from public for the well-being of a few elite persons who had fled the country to escape accountability and were living abroad.

He said the proposed increase of 40 percent in the allocation for the Annual Development Programme would be completely meaningless in a situation where the provincial leadership and bureaucracy lacked the capacity to timely spend money on proposed development works.

In the outgoing financial year 2015-16, the administration had failed to spend Rs97 billion meant for development works, and that came to around 40 percent of the ADP.

He said that with the government machinery lacking capacity to spend money meant for development, it was feared that up to 80 percent allocation for the new ADP would not be spent in the next financial year.

The opposition leader regretted that the new budget, despite being unveiled in the midst of the holy month of Ramazan, did not contain any Ramazan-related relief package for the masses, irrespective of the fact that people in urban pockets had to endure massive hikes in prices of vegetables, sugar, wheat flour and other essential edibles.

He said the development budget did contain a few development schemes for Karachi, but those schemes would bring no phenomenal improvement in civic affairs of the city.

He said the finance minister, while informing the house about those development schemes, could dodge no one as every concerned person knew well that the projects were in fact proposed development schemes for the city, which had been deleted from the budget for the financial year 2010-11.

Hassan lamented that government lacked capable ministers and officials, while a number of high-profile provincial ministers who served in the recent past were facing allegations of corruption and financial wrongdoings.

Samar Ali Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf said that as per the finance minister’s own admission, the government had failed to make any significant recovery under the head of agriculture tax.

He said the government on the one hand had been failing to collect taxes from elite people in rural areas, and on the other the cause of the development of Karachi and other urban centres was being constantly ignored.

Nand Kumar of the Pakistan Muslim League- Functional said the new budget would allow the corrupt elements in the provincial administration to siphon off money from the public exchequer to foreign lands for spending by the ruling elite living in exile.

He lamented that no special development packages had been announced in the budget for small cities and towns of the province.  

Syed Sardar Ahmed, parliamentary leader of the MQM in the Sindh Assembly, also rejected the new taxes in the finance bill, while terming them too burdensome for the people of the province. 

Opp gives a tough time

During Sindh finance minister Murad Ali Shah’s two-hour-long budget speech in the provincial assembly on Saturday, protesting opposition lawmakers, especially those of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, kept shouting slogans and jeers, accusing the ruling party of involvement in corruption.

Before the budget speech, MQM lawmaker Muhammad Hussain Khan wanted to speak on a point of order on the issues of water shortage in Karachi and the FIR lodged against leaders of his party for leading a protest outside the Chief Minister’s House.

For some minutes, the finance minister was unable to start his speech as the Khan kept speaking even though his microphone had been switched off and speaker Agha Siraj Khan Durrani had turned down his request to speak.

The speaker said he would not allow any person to speak in the House until the finance minister delivered his budget speech.

But the MQM legislator kept on speaking and protesting against the provincial government’s actions.

He also raised the issue of a recent Rangers’ raid at the residence of senior MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar in PIB Colony.

The MQM lawmakers attended the session wearing armbands with “Say no to corruption” written on them.

Talking to reporters after the budget speech, opposition leader Khawaja Izhar-ul-Hassan of the MQM said the legislators of his party had attended the session wearing these armbands because the people of Sindh had no doubts about the rampant corruption under way in the affairs of the provincial government.

He said the opposition in the provincial assembly would continue its drive against corrupt practices in the echelons of provincial government.

During the finance minister’s speech, whenever he mentioned a major fiscal achievement or ongoing or planned development schemes to be completed in the province, the opposition lawmakers shouted “Jhoot, Jhoot (lie, lie)”.

A few times, the finance minister was compelled to stop his speech and retort to he opposition lawmakers’ continuous jeering.

On one occasion, the finance minister said the opposition lawmakers was unduly accusing the provincial government of corruption and in the past, they were unable to provide any evidence to support their claim that billions of rupees had illegally been transferred outside the country from the province.

The speaker repeatedly asked the opposition lawmakers to listen to the budget speech and not act as if they were present at Karachi’s busy Empress Market.

After the budget speech, the finance minister tabled the Sindh Finance Bill, 2016 as part of the new provincial budget. The bill would be considered by the House on June 23. The opposition lawmakers protested loudly and some of them tore copies of the bill and the agenda of the session.

Before the budget speech, Dr Abdul Sattar Rajper of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, elected in PS-22 Naushehro Feroz, and Hargun Das of the MQM took the oath of office as newly returned MPAs. Das became an MPA on a reserved seat for minorities.

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