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June 27, 2019

PA passes Rs1.217 trillion zero-deficit budget for 2019-20


June 27, 2019

Amid strong protest and criticism by the opposition, the Sindh government’s zero-deficit budget for the new financial year was passed through a majority vote by the provincial assembly on Wednesday. The total volume of the budget will be Rs1.217 trillion.

Through a majority vote, the PA approved 159 demands for grants of the Sindh government pertaining to the provincial budget for 2019-20. The total volume of demands for grants is Rs1.1855 trillion.

The House rejected, also through majority votes, 543 cut motions of the opposition that sought to curtail the expenditures of the provincial government in the new financial year.

The new provincial budget envisages increase in salaries of the Sindh government’s employees from five per cent to 15 per cent. The budget also proposes setting Rs17,500 as the minimum monthly wage of labourers across the province.

The provincial budget contains special grants for public and private hospitals in the province. The House will give approval to the new provincial finance act on Thursday (today).

The opposition legislators who presented the cut motions pertaining to the provincial government’s budget said Sindh was already passing through serious fiscal problems, so all the demands for grants of the provincial government could not be approved without any due consideration by the lawmakers.

However, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, who holds the additional portfolio of the finance department, opposed all the cut motions presented by the opposition legislators. He claimed that in the outgoing financial year, the Sindh government had saved some Rs7 billion, saying that the interests of the people of the province would be given preference over everything else.

Referring to the mysterious disappearance from the House of the PA opposition leader’s notes, on the basis of which he was going to deliver a speech on the new provincial budget, the CM made a sarcastic statement.

“People make allegations of things being stolen from the assembly, but yesterday I left behind in the House Rs2, and the same is present in the assembly in the same manner. One should look at who was not present in the House yesterday and today [after the notes of the opposition leader disappeared].”

Locust attack

Addressing the House earlier, PA Speaker Agha Siraj Khan Durrani urged the federal government to take immediate steps to safeguard the crops of Sindh against the recent locust attack. The speaker said that this curse had reached Sindh from Balochistan, adding that the federal government was under an obligation to help the provinces in this regard.

He said the poor farmers of Sindh had suffered serious damages to their crops owing to the attack of locusts. He added that it was not a political issue, and that it had created a calamity-like situation for the farmers in the province.

He asked the provincial agriculture minister to take the House into confidence over this issue, following which Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahoo said the locusts’ onslaught had reached the districts of Khairpur and Sanghar while moving from Iran via Balochistan.

He said that there were 30 locations alongside the Nara canal in Khairpur where crops were infested by locusts. He added that teams of the Plant Protection Department had been dispatched to these locations.

Rahoo said that meetings had been held with the relevant officials of every district in this regard via video link, adding that emergency measures were being taken in this regard. The minister said that Suparco (Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission) had been approached for carrying out aerial application against the locust attack.

He said Suparco had just one airplane in working condition that had been conducting aerial spray in Balochistan. Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Mir Nadir Ali Khan Magsi said that this was a sensitive issue, as this could not be tackled with the deployment of a single airplane. He said that full-fledged steps had to be taken to repel this major attack of insects against the crops in the province.

CM Shah also acknowledged the seriousness of the issue and said he had approached the Ministry of National Food Security & Research as well as the Aviation Division for ensuring aerial application against locusts in the province.