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June 17, 2021

Murad blames Irsa for water shortage in Sindh

 
June 17, 2021

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that injustice was done against his province in the Water Accord of 1991.

Murad said he doesn’t have any complaint against Punjab, adding the Indus River System Authority has not been distributing river water judicially among the provinces.

Speaking at the post-budget press conference here on Wednesday, the Sindh chief minister said he wouldn’t blame the Punjab for the water crisis in his province when the IRSA was at fault on this issue. He said those who had rejected the new Sindh government’s budget had themselves been rejected by the people, so it didn’t make any difference if they refused to accept the budget.

“Those who earlier used to win 21 seats (in the assembly) have been reduced to a very few seats,” the CM said while referring to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan without naming the opposition political party in the province.

The chief minister said he was not opposed to anyone who wanted to do business in the province. He said up to 70 per cent people of Sindh voted in favour of the Pakistan People's Party, adding he slept very peacefully at night as he was fully satisfied with his own efforts for the people of the province within the given resources while on the contrary his opponents had to spend sleepless nights.

He criticised the federal government for shortage of coronavirus vaccines in the country while stating that neither the Centre procured the vaccine on its own nor it allowed his government to purchase the same. He complained that the federal government this year again had given Rs147 billion less to Sindh, adding the development projects having Rs990 billion cost were at different stages of completion in Karachi and now an additional allocation of Rs110 billion has been earmarked for new development initiatives in the city.

“Those rejected by the people of the city have been making a baseless claim that the city has been ignored in terms of allocation for the development schemes,” he said. Murad said Rs110 billion had been allocated in the new provincial budget for completion of the ongoing and launching new development schemes in Karachi.

“At present, different development schemes of Rs990 billion initiated under the ADP (Annual Development Programme), donor agencies, Public Private Partnership are at different stages of completion,” he said and added in the next ADP, Rs110 billion had been allocated for the development of the city,” he said. Shah said at least Rs3,000 billion were required for development of Karachi but we don't have so much resources, even then the PPP government in Sindh has completed and launched major development schemes in the city.

Murad counted a number of schemes such as widening of Sharea Faisal, Tariq Road, University Road, Madinat-ul-Hikmat Road, Shahrah-e-Quaideen, Hawksbay Road, construction of a large number of flyovers, underpasses and various other projects that had been completed by his government in the city. “What they [MQM] have done who remained rulers of this city for over two decades,” he questioned.

The chief minister said he had presented a Rs1,477.9 billion deficit budget but the deficit of Rs25.73 billion would be covered by curtailing non-development expenditures. He said against the Rs1,477.9 billion expenditure of the provincial government, the revenue receipts were estimated at Rs1,452.168 billion, which showed a deficit of Rs25.73 billion.

Now the question arises how the shortfall of Rs25.73 billion would be met, he raised the question and himself replied he would curtail non-development expenditures and may borrow from the banks or take overdraft from the State Bank, but he vowed he would utilise the development budget to complete a record 1,009 ongoing and new uplift schemes.

He said the federal government had vowed to provide Rs760 billion during the current financial year but so far they have released Rs613 billion and this showed Rs147 billion shortfall. “Now the federal government has revised the federal transfers from Rs760 billion to Rs717 billion but even then they have to pay Rs104 billion by the end of June 2021,” he said.

Shah said the federal government has assured that it would give Rs869.68 billion in straight transfers and hopefully this figure would not be revised. During the current financial year, the federal government has allocated Rs62 billion under the head of Oil and Gas Development Surcharge for Sindh but for the next financial year they have allocated Rs49 billion, which is quite surprising for him.

The chief minister said the provincial own receipts would be Rs329.319 billion, adding these funds were made through tax and non tax receipts.

The Sindh Revenue Board (SRB) was given a target of Rs125 billion and hopefully the target would be achieved by the end of this month, he said and added for the next financial year, Rs125 billion target has been set for SRB.

About Excise & Taxation, Murad Ali Shah said that they were given a target of Rs88 billion of tax collection and added they would not just achieve it but also exceed this target. Therefore, the Excise & Taxation Department has been given a revised target of Rs120 billion of revenue collection for the next financial year.

Murad said the Board of Revenue (BoR) had a target of Rs36.4 billion but due to heavy rains and natural calamities, the provincial government had declared various districts as calamity-hit areas and their recoveries were postponed. He said the next year's collection target of BoR has been kept at Rs30.64 billion. The chief minister said that non-development expenditures were considered a burden on the government exchequer and as a matter of fact these expenditures were essential. He added that salaries, pensions, funding to pension funds, grants to hospitals, repair and maintenance were part of the non-development budget.

He said 20 percent salaries of government employees have been increased. Minimum wage, despite widespread criticism, has been raised from Rs17,500 to Rs25,000.