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July 2, 2016

The Balochistan budget


July 2, 2016

In simple terms, the budget is the summary of all financial expenditures of a government in a fiscal year. In developed countries, the ‘political government’ seeks the assistance of experienced economists and reputable think tanks while preparing the budget, which is aimed at maximising the revenues of the country.

In Pakistan, especially so in Balochistan, the incumbent political party most often determines the annual budgetary allocations to different sectors without consulting renowned economists and relevant think tanks. Therefore, both the country and this backward province have thus far utterly failed to achieve economic strides from many an ill-crafted budget.

The PML-N led provincial government in Balochistan has recently announced the budget for FY 2016-17 with a total outlay of Rs289.356 billion along with a deficit of Rs36.485 billion. The new fiscal budget includes Rs218.174 billion in non-development expenditures and Rs71.182 billion for the Annual Development Programme (ADP).

The income of the province during the new FY 2016-17 is anticipated to be over Rs252.871 billion which includes federal receipts from the centre under the National Finance Commission Award and the Federal Divisible Pool. The provincial government will also receive Rs10 billion from Islamabad as Gas Development Surcharge.

As per details, the receipts from the divisible pool are Rs182.605 billion; and from direct transfers, Rs14.238 billion. Under ‘others’ there is Rs10 billion while capital revenue receipts will amount to Rs36.908 billion. The province will get an income of estimated Rs9.120 billion from its own resources. The foreign aid for the province has been estimated at Rs6.181 billion.

According to media sources, the provincial government did not consult trusted, experienced and competent economists while preparing the budget after the arrest of suspended finance secretary Mushtaq Raisani. This speaks volumes about the seriousness and political competence of a democratically elected government in terms of deciding the development and socio-economic prosperity of an already backward nation. It also raises a string of questions about the capability, experience and political sagacity of leaders in the province. What can be realistically expected from such a budget for the long-suffering people of Balochistan?

The importance given to development can be easily ascertained by going through the budgetary allocation to the sector of research and development (R&D). The provincial government has earmarked Rs71.182 billion for total development expenditure, including schemes for education, health, law and order, agriculture, communication, infrastructure, water and energy sectors. Out of this, Rs6.182 will be financed by Foreign Projected Assistance (FPA).

How would it be possible to modernise the dilapidated infrastructure of Balochistan with this meagre amount coupled with the spectre of massive corruption and misallocation of development funds? The province is already plagued by massive outages and lacks an adequate number of dams, roads, research centres, seaports, industrial zones etc. The vexing question is: How can Balochistan keep pace with the rest of Pakistan in terms of upward economic trajectory without enough development resources at hand?

Developed countries tend to prioritise education in every new budget. Education has been allocated Rs42.67 billion in the budget, a 11.49 percent increase from last year. However, only Rs6.65 billion has been allocated for the development budget of education as compared to Rs10.19 billion last year. It has also been decided to establish three medical colleges in Khuzdar, Loralai and Turbat, while 70 middle schools have been recommended to be upgraded to high school in different areas of the province. It has also been announced that 14,000 students from Balochistan will be given scholarships in national and international educational institutions.

Arguably, after taking out the share of corruption and misapplication in this amount, only a fraction remains to be utilised on education. Hundreds and thousands of school-age children are out of school in Balochistan, and a large number of educational institutions desperately lack the requisite tools and trained teachers. How will it be possible to develop Balochistan and turn Gwadar into a mega city without educating and training their local people? If education does not take precedence over all other sectors, it is futile to embark upon any grandiose plans of political reforms and economic growth.

Needless to say, the province is plagued by a deteriorating law and order situation due to the disruptive insurgency and an undertrained, poorly equipped, highly politicised and toothless police force. The government has allocated just Rs30.25 billion for law and order which includes the provision of modern weapons and vehicles to the police, the Levies Force, Balochistan Constabulary and financial assistance to the Frontier Corps under these allocations. This amount is even inadequate to pay the salaries of the current total police force and meet its patrolling expenditures.

Balochistan is under attack by some regional countries whose aim is to sabotage the CPEC. How can the government continue its projected development initiatives without an effective security system in place? It must be the top priority of the government to ensure lasting security in the province. To make security foolproof in the province, the police need more recruitments, training and modern equipment.

Despite the large number of jobless graduates and skilled labours, the provincial government has decided to create around 3,000 new jobs in government departments in the coming year for unemployed youth. It should not be forgotten that both Balochistan and Gwadar are at a crossroads of development and socio-economic prosperity. Providing 3,000 jobs amounts to adding salt to the festering injuries of the hundreds and thousands of jobless youths in the province.

The elected leaders have forgotten that unemployed youth are prone to anti-state activities when they lack the basic needs of a decent life. Moreover, while depriving the local people of a just share in development works, the government is unintentionally helping insurgent outfits to attract and recruit more and more youngsters.

Despite living amidst lingering crises, the political leaders in Balochistan have so far failed to run a federating unit in an effective manner. One can only hope that one day they will learn the requisite skills that lead to good governance.

The writer is an independent researcher and columnist based in Karachi.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @ayazahmed66665


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