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KARACHI: The Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government presented on Saturday a Rs869.1 billion budget for the financial year 2016-17, with a deficit of Rs14.6bn. It was the ninth consecutive budget presented by the PPP since the 2008 general elections.

Amid a noisy protest by opposition lawmakers in the Sindh Assembly, Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah unveiled the budget, having a Rs225bn Annual Development Pro­gramme (ADP), in which total revenue was estimated at Rs854.5bn against the expenditure of Rs869.1bn.

The revenue from federal transfers is estimated to be Rs561bn, while the Sindh government would collect Rs166bn from its own resources and get Rs127.4bn from other resources.

The finance minister termed the budget ‘people-friendly’, which was worked out in the spirit of reconciliation and participatory politics.

“This year also, we will be providing jobs to 50,000 people,” Mr Shah said, adding that the jobs would include 20,000 in the Sindh police, 10,000 in the education department and 3,500 in the health sector.

He said that the Sindh government had been following the policy of spending a major portion of the budget on four priority sectors — education, health, law and order and local government. “We will continue with the same policy in the coming financial year,” he added.

Mr Shah said that Rs160.7bn had been allocated for the education sector followed by Rs82.3bn for law and order that includes police, jails, Rangers and other security agencies. The allocation for the health sector was Rs65.9bn. Other expenditures in the next financial year are estimated at Rs294.2bn.

Certain relief measures have been suggested in the budget for government employees, pensioners and workers. A 10 per cent ad hoc relief allowance on running basic pay will be given to all employees from July 1. Minimum wage is being increased from Rs13,000 to Rs14,000 a month. A 10pc increase in pension and 25pc in net pension will be given to all pensioners above the age of 85 years from July 1.

An amount of Rs50.3bn has been allocated in the head of the ADP for Karachi division; Rs53.5bn for Hyderabad division; Rs22.7bn for Sukkur division; Rs27.3bn for Larkana division; Rs26.9bn for Mirpurkhas division and Rs18.9bn has been allocated for Shaheed Benazirabad division.

Although no new tax has been proposed, certain more services have been brought under the tax net through the finance bill, which would be taken up for consideration on June 23. The services include chartered flights, consultancy, public relations, visa processing, debt collection and supply chain management on which 13 per cent sales tax is being levied.

The Sindh Sales Tax on Services was being reduced from 14pc to 13pc in the next financial year, the minister said.

“I propose to increase the scope of exemption on internet and broadband services used by households, students and researchers. The exemption threshold on internet services is being enlarged from 2mbps speed and Rs1,500 per month per user to 4mbps and Rs2,500 per month per user,” he said.

“This budget is a reflection of the aspirations of people, a testament of their hopes, and evidence of the trust they have reposed in their representatives,” he said.

During the budget speech, lawmakers belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement protested against the registration of a criminal case against leaders for holding a demonstration for water. They wore headbands inscribed with “Say No to Corruption”.

Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani warned the protesting members not to spoil the atmosphere of the budget session.

Taking the floor, the finance minister pointed out an inordinate delay in finalising the 9th National Finance Commission Award and informed the house that he had recorded his protest over the unwillingness of the federal government to undertake the constitutional obligation.

With the presentation of the finance bill 2016-17, the speaker adjourned the house till Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2016