KARACHI: While presenting the annual budget for 2018-19 amid noisy protest by the opposition benches, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah announced a 10 per cent increase in the salaries and pensions of government employees.
With Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani presiding over the budget session of the Sindh Assembly, Mr Shah said the government employees and pensioners had been given a special relief.
As he was speaking, members of the opposition, save those MQM lawmakers who have defected to the Pak Sarzameen Party, came close to him and the speaker’s chair and began chanting slogans accusing the government of corruption. They tore up the papers and tossed the pieces into the air.
At that point, Mr Shah claimed that his party would be winning the next elections as well in Sindh while the opposition members would continue to “curse their luck”.
Opposition promises to hold govt to account for past 10 years
He taunted the opposition members as a “leaderless lot” who discarded their leadership while “we respect our leaders and can sacrifice our life for them”.
The opposition members, however, continued to chant slogans until Mr Shah concluded his last budget speech of the assembly’s present mandate.
He added the relief measure taken by the government included an ad hoc relief allowance of 10pc on the running basic pay for all Sindh government and civil employees.
Among the announcements he made were: a 10pc increase to all pensioners of the government; the house rent ceiling or house rent allowance was enhanced at 50pc of the existing amount.
The rate of minimum pension was enhanced from Rs6,000 to Rs10,000 and minimum family pension from Rs4,500 to Rs7,500 in respect of pensioners of the Sindh government.
Mr Shah said the minimum pension would be Rs15,000 for the pensioners aged 75 years or above.
He said the decision on 9th National Finance Commission award was long awaited.
“The delay is causing huge economic losses to provinces, especially to Sindh because its revenue collection is much higher than other provinces,” he said, urging the federal government to announce the award soon.
He said that only one tax, sales tax on services, had been devolved to the provinces, adding that the collection of sales tax on services when it was with the federal government stood at Rs16 billion in 2010-11. After devolution the collection figure was Rs78.66bn in 2016-17, showing a marked increase.
He said the government had allocated Rs426 million under the ADP during 2017-18 for the execution of various schemes for the women development department.
To uplift the socio-economic conditions and welfare of minorities in Sindh, he said, the grant had been increased from Rs500m in the current year to Rs750m for the next fiscal.
He said his government had focused its attention on development of infrastructure, from roads to energy.
“Instead of introducing cosmetic schemes like metros through which all the money was directed to major cities just to earn popularity, we have instead spread our development activities all over Sindh, both in urban and rural areas in a just and equitable manner,” he said.
He said village electrification and village gasification programmes would continue for which Rs1,200m had been allocated.
Mr Shah said Sindh was facing acute water shortage. He said the government had plans to develop high-efficiency irrigation systems, conserving water to cultivate additional 30,000 acres of land.
Mr Shah said the trend of urbanisation and growing population in Sindh was putting consistent pressure on water supply, sewage effluent disposal and solid waste management services.
Saaf Suthro Sindh
He said the Saaf Suthro Sindh Programme was conceived as nutrition sensitive programme to cover the sanitation component to help in reduction of malnutrition and stunting rates in the province. The scope of the project was initially to cover 13 districts of Sindh. About 50pc of rural population in these 13 districts would be covered by taking up 400 villages in each district.
He said the target was to make 5,200 villages of Sindh as open defecation-free villages by the end of the programme .
He said agriculture contributed 24pc to the GDP. Sindh’s contribution to the national production was 36pc in rice, 29pc in sugar cane, 34pc in cotton and 15pc in wheat.
Grants and subsidies
Mr Shah said the government had contributed Rs2.6bn as subsidy for reduction in price of urea. He said through sustained farmer-friendly efforts “we have achieved bumper crop of wheat”. An amount of Rs2.1bn had been provided as wheat subsidy.
Tax revenue mobilisation
Mr Shah said tax receipts had increased from Rs91.37bn to Rs185.62bn in three years.
He said that the increased tax collection from Rs33.67bn to Rs100bn during five years, with 24.32pc annual compound growth rate, “is great success of the government”.
Opposition plan for general debate
The Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Khwaja Izharul Hasan on Thursday said the opposition parties in the legislature would make the government accountable for the past 10 years when general debate on the annual budget for the next fiscal would begin next week.
He was speaking to the media after presentation of the annual budget.
He said the people would not allow the government of the Pakistan Peoples Party to loot the province continuously for the reason that it had rendered great sacrifices.
“We do respect their leaders’ sacrifices, but that should not be the reason to allow the present rulers to plunder the province at their will,” he said.
Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2018