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June 30, 2020

Sindh budget is more people-friendly, say ministers

Peshawar

June 30, 2020

KARACHI: The Sindh budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 is the most people-friendly compared to the budgets of the Centre and other provinces.

Sindh Information and Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, Education and Labour Minister Saeed Ghani and Energy Minister Imtiaz Sheikh made this claim as they addressed a press conference in the Sindh Assembly auditorium on Sunday.

The ministers stated that on the directions of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had presented a budget that was as good as it could have been in the current circumstances. A total of Rs45 billion had been allocated in the provincial budget for Karachi, they said, adding that in the health sector alone, 62.4 per cent of funds had been earmarked for the provincial capital.

Responding to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s (MQM-P) allegations that the Sindh government had ignored Karachi in the budget, the ministers said that instead of point-scoring in the name of Karachi and Hyderabad, the MQM-P should ask the federal government, in which it is a coalition partner, to spend billions of rupees that it had promised for Karachi and other cities of Sindh. The ministers also blamed the federal government for the recent power crisis in the city. Nasir said that the budget presented by the Sindh government in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic could not be called an ideal budget but it was better than what the federal and other provincial governments had come up with. He maintained that the health sector had been given priority in the Sindh budget and billions of rupees allocated under the People's Support Programme, especially for those affected by the pandemic.

Criticising the recent MQM-P’s sit-in outside the Sindh Assembly, the information minister said such a protest was beyond comprehension. If the MQM-P wanted to protest, it should do so against the federal government and not against the provincial government, Nasir said, adding that the MQM-P should ask the federal government what had happened to the Rs162 billion package for Karachi.

He said the politics of the MQM-P was limited to Karachi and Hyderabad only. He called on the media and people to ask leaders of the MQM-P what schemes for Karachi they had been able to obtain from the federal government. The recent rise in the prices of petroleum products was another proof of the incompetence of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) federal government, which had added to the worries of the people, the information minister said. In a few days, it would be known who benefited from such a huge increase in the petroleum products’ prices, he added.

Nasir lamented that when petrol was cheap, it was not available to the public. There had been no precedent in the past regarding the way people were searching for cheap petrol, he remarked.

He was of the view that the PTI government had failed in every sector by deceiving the people using the slogan of change. Nasir said neither did the federal government itself import oil nor did it allow the oil marketing companies to import the fuel. When you ask them about their performance, they start making allegations, he added.

Before Imran Khan became the prime minister, he used to say that an increase in the prices of petroleum products made everything more expensive and today he himself was the cause of this inflation, the Sindh information minister maintained.

He said that apart from the health sector, the Sindh budget had focused on resolving the problems of farmers, small landowners and small businesses, for which a considerable amount had been allocated in this budget.

The critics may not be aware of this but the Sindh government had allocated a large portion of the budget for Karachi, Nasir remarked.

Commenting on the recent decision of the Supreme Court regarding the purchase of luxury vehicles, he said the Sindh government had already decided that no new car would be purchased this year due to the situation arising out of the outbreak of COVID-19.

He clarified that if there was a severe need, vehicles would be procured for the personnel working in the field or for dealing with an emergency situation like the locust attacks.

Every decision of the Supreme Court would be implemented and the Sindh government had no plans to buy luxury vehicles in this budget anyway, he stated. Ghani said no government in the country other than the Sindh government had increased the salaries of workers and government employees in the new budget. He said the increase in the prices of petroleum products by the federal government from 27 to 66 per cent was a gross abuse of the people.

The education minister said that no statement was issued by the MQM-P when the prices of petroleum products had skyrocketed due to a decision of the incompetent PTI government.

He added that the purpose of the MQM-P sit-in was only to get media coverage. Projects worth billions of rupees had been signed to improve the infrastructure and water and sewerage system of Karachi, he maintained.

Responding to a query, Ghani said that in the past when the MQM was the PPP’s ally, it separated from the government four to five times due to the increase in the prices of petroleum products which were made due to the petroleum price changes in the global markets. He added that the MQM-P was, however, silent this time when the prices of petroleum products had been increased overnight.

He went on to say that the MQM-P was equally responsible for the dismissal of 9,300 employees of Pakistan Steel Mills.

Replying to another question, Ghani said no new scheme had been included in the budget this year except in the field of health.

To a question regarding the education department, he replied that except for those teachers whose cases were being heard in courts or who had any objections or cases against whom were under way in the National Accountability Bureau, all the teachers were satisfied with the government as their issues had been resolved.

Ghani maintained that Rs45 billion had been allocated in the budget for Karachi. He added that repair work of 500 school buildings in Karachi was included in the five mega projects of the education department.

He said work on the Red and Blue Line projects would also begin this year. In addition to that, more than Rs200 billion would be spent on other projects for Karachi, including water, sewerage and waste disposal projects.

To another question, he said that work on development projects worth Rs350 billion in Karachi over the next two years would be started this year in collaboration with the World Bank and other agencies. When asked about the allegations levelled by the MQM-P, Ghani said the real face of the MQM-P had been exposed to the public and it was time for them to abandon Altaf Hussain's politics and ideology.

He said the MQM-P should also explain the facts that had come to light from Muhammad Anwar and end the drama being created to divert attention from the murder case of Dr Imran Farooq. The energy minister said their talks with the management of K-Electric, Hyderabad Electric Supply Company and Sukkur Electric Power Company had revealed that the federal government was to blame for the current power crisis.

He said the supply of furnace oil from the Hub Power Company to K-Electric had started, after which the duration of load-shedding in Karachi had been reduced from Sunday while other power generating companies had also increased their production.