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November 15, 2017

Centre spending more uplift funds in Punjab


November 15, 2017

ISLAMABAD: More than 80 percent funds allocated for parliamentarians’ development schemes at federal level are being spent in Punjab alone during the current fiscal year 2017-18 as the PML-N is eyeing to win the next general elections mainly through mustering up support from the largest province of the country.

The government has allocated Rs30 billion for PM’s Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) achievement programme on eve of the budget 2017-18 with the approval of parliament but this amount was now jacked up to Rs32.6 billion.

In last three fiscal years from 2015-16, 2016-17 and now 2017-18, the government had earmarked around Rs79 billion for SDGs schemes which were spent through parliamentarians but after making adjustments the actual utilised money for smaller schemes went up to Rs94 billion in these three years period.

Out of allocated amount of Rs30 billion, the incumbent regime has earmarked Rs22 billion for development schemes on recommendations of ruling party members hailing from Punjab, clearly indicating that the PML-N-led regime was focusing upon more for mustering up support from its political base in the province in the name of development work.  Only Rs8 to Rs10 billion will be spent in the other three remaining provinces of the country.

The Planning Commission (PC) has already released the allocated amount of Rs30 billion meant for PM’s SDGs programme to the Cabinet Division. The Cabinet Division has constituted a steering committee headed by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab and comprising of Capt (R) Mohammad Safdar, son-in-law of former PM Nawaz Sharif, Senator Saud Majeed and others. The federal secretaries of Planning Division, Finance Division, Cabinet Division, and representative of other ministries are part of this steering committee.

One top official of the government made efforts to justify spending of major chunk of discretionary development funding in Punjab by arguing that the basic condition for approving these development schemes was cost sharing of 50:50 percent by the federal and provincial government so that there should be ownership from the respective federating unit.

“We do not approve any development scheme forwarded by any parliamentarian if the respective province refuses to provide 50 percent resources for any such scheme,” said the official.

The Centre has utilised Rs42 billion for this discretionary programme in last fiscal year 2016-17. The Planning Commission had allocated Rs27.6 billion for PM’s SDGs schemes while additional Rs15 billion was diverted for execution of these small schemes of parliamentarians from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) with the consent of the Finance Ministry which was lying surplus from other development projects during the last financial year. This additional amount was not supplementary grant but it was actually “savings” of the Planning Commission which was diverted towards SDGs programme.

This scribe made efforts to get version of the Cabinet Division secretary but he did not respond to various calls.

However, official spokesman of Planning Commission when contacted said that the PM’s SDGs programme was managed by the Cabinet Division and Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms released allocated funds to the Cabinet Division.

The spokesman said that a Steering Committee with representatives from all provinces looks after it. It's funded on cost sharing basis. If a province allocates funds he gets federal government share for the scheme.

It's demand driven. The public identify needs and their representatives process schemes for approval as per notified process after cabinet’s approval. For more details, the spokesman advised the scribe to contact the Cabinet Division.

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