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June 16, 2019

CM refuses to stay silent over Centre’s ‘injustices’ with Sindh

Karachi

June 16, 2019

Terming the outgoing financial year 2018-19 the worst in the country’s history affecting the development of the provinces, Sindh’s chief minister has said he would not keep silent and not let the federal government continue to do injustices with the people of the province.

Addressing the post-budget news conference at the provincial assembly on Saturday, Murad Ali Shah said he had been raising his voice for the rights of Sindh’s people in the situation in which other provinces were being denied the opportunity to speak for their people.

The CM said he had been engaged in the budget making process for his province for the past decade, but he had not witnessed before such a situation like the one he had encountered in the outgoing financial year, in which the attitude of the federation towards the province had been highly irresponsible and non-serious.

He said the finance ministry had written to the Sindh government on May 30, before the announcement of the new budget, to inform them that the Centre would transfer Rs666 billion to the province.

“Again a letter was sent by the finance ministry on June 4 to inform that not Rs666 billion but Rs662 billion would be transferred by the federal government. And lastly, when the federal budget was announced, this amount was further decreased to Rs631 billion,” he added.

“This is what they are doing with the entire country, but we will speak up and raise the issue if there will be injustices with the provinces.”

Shah said that in the new fiscal year, Sindh would spend Rs100 billion less on the development of the province as compared to the previous financial year, adding that even then the development expenditure of Sindh would be better than other provinces.

He said that given the manner in which the budgetary affairs of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were handled by the Centre, Islamabad was attempting to occupy the provinces. “But Sindh will resist such an attempt, as we will not let the trust of our people be violated. We have to face this situation, as we have been resisting such attempts.”

The CM said salaries of the Sindh government’s employees of all grades had been raised by 15 per cent, though it had been his wish that the increase in the employees’ salaries should have been 25 per cent, given the current trend of inflation and price hike of essential commodities.

He said the Punjab government had also earlier presented a budget with Rs237 billion surplus amount for the new fiscal year, though there was no point in presenting a surplus budget if there was no special increase in the salaries of the provincial government’s employees other than what had been announced by the Centre.

He also said his government had finalised the best budget it could prepare for the upcoming financial year, given the resources at its disposal and the funds it would receive from the Centre.

He added that the Sindh government was likely to receive Rs835 billion from the Centre in the upcoming financial year, as the provincial budget had been prepared keeping in view the fiscal transfers from the federal administration and the province’s own revenue collection.

Shah said that the new provincial budget of Sindh was neither surplus nor deficit, as it was a balanced budget.

He said that the total outlay of the new provincial budget was Rs1.2 trillion, of which 71 per cent would cover the non-development side and 28 per cent would be for development of the province.

He added that the Sindh government’s total development expenditure in the upcoming financial year would be Rs283.89 billion, including the provincial Annual Development Programme (ADP) having the value of Rs208 billion, while the size of the district ADP would be Rs20 billion.

The CM said the allocation for different provincial government departments had been decreased with fewer resources available to the province: allocation for the irrigation department was decreased from Rs28 billion to Rs22 billion; for the local government department, from Rs33 billion to Rs22 billion and for the works & services department, from Rs33.5 billion to Rs24 billion. He said his government would spend Rs36 billion on development schemes of Karachi, besides arranging a loan from $1.5 billion for mega development projects of the city.

He added that loans would be arranged from foreign donor agencies to construct $438 million Yellow Line section of the bus rapid transit service (BRTS) project and also for the $561 million Red Line section of the BRTS.

He also said that it was reported earlier that the Centre had allocated Rs45 billion in the new budget for Karachi’s development schemes, but the actual allocation for the purpose turned out to be Rs12 billion, including Rs2 billion for the under-construction Green Line section of the BRTS.

Shah said that given the insufficient allocation for the Green Line project, he did not foresee the possibility that the mass transit project would be completed in the new financial year.

He said that the fiscal requirements for the development of the province had been extraordinary, as that was why he had demanded that special allocation should be made by the Centre for the purpose outside the ambit of the National Finance Commission Award, but his demand was yet to be met.

He also said that Rs16 billion would be spent on Karachi’s development through foreign-assisted projects, so the total development spending on the city would go up to Rs52 billion.

Arrests condemned

On the outset of his post-budget news conference, the CM had condemned the arrest of former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari a day before the federal budget was presented and the arrest of Zardari’s sister and PPP MPA Faryal Talpur on the day the Sindh government’s budget was presented. Shah said that these acts were nothing except instances of political victimisation.

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