KARACHI: Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Friday said delays and reduction in federal transfers had been gravely affecting development works in Sindh as Islamabad slashed Rs34 billion last fiscal and had to transfer Rs175bn in the coming two months as per its promises.

“The federal government had promised Rs627bn for the current fiscal and revised it to Rs598bn, yet, we have got only Rs429bn so far,” said Mr Shah while addressing the post-budget press conference at the auditorium of the New Sindh Assembly Building.

He said Islamabad had provided Rs34bn less than what had been promised to Sindh for fiscal year 2016-17.

He questioned claims of the federal finance ministry and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) that they had met the targets of tax collection.

“If they have met their tax collection targets then where are funds for the provinces?”

He feared that Sindh’s fiscal position would gravely be affected if the federal government provided less than the promised funds to the province.

He asked the finance ministry to make public the figures of funds received from Islamabad on July 2, though, he would not be in office. “I can pass an order for this right now as the chief minister.”

He said Sindh’s own tax target was Rs199bn, which had slightly been revised to Rs197bn and would be achieved at the end of the current fiscal.

He said during the current fiscal, his government had completed 721 schemes, including major projects, which improved last year’s record when it had completed 563 schemes.

He said Rs27bn had been allocated for the road sector. Out of 41 targeted road schemes, 34 had been completed and the rest were near completion.

Water shortage

Mr Shah said Sindh was facing 55 per cent water shortage, which forced the authorities to focus on water conservation.

He blamed the federal government and the Indus River System Authority (Irsa), which were not following the water accord.

“We have recently signed the National Water Policy, in which it is clearly written that the water accord will be followed, yet, we see no such thing in practical terms.”

He said Sindh was being singled out in the whole scheme about share in water when representative of Punjab won support of the other two smaller provinces by saying the latter would not be sharing in water shortages, thus, despite being the lower riparian Sindh suffered the brunt of extreme shortages.

He said Sindh had invested heavily in lining of irrigation system, which helped it conserve greater quantities of water.

Mr Shah said greater grants to the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases had done wonders, which made it the largest institute in the world in performing most angioplasties.

Similarly, emergency rooms had been established in various public sector hospitals.

About boycott of the chief ministers of three provinces from the National Economic Council meeting, Mr Shah said they left the room when “they asked us rudely that they did not need our presence. There were just four members left, no quorum (seven of 13) was there and whatever they did has no constitutional position”.

Karachi Circular Railway

About delays in proper execution of the ambitious Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project, Mr Shah said he had asked the prime minister in Dec 2016 to include KCR in the CPEC scheme and hand the railway’s land to the Sindh government.

“We got preliminary approval in Beijing and sent feasibility within four months, but the federal government denied us the sovereign guarantee and did not facilitate us. In Beijing in May 2017, Minister Ishaq Dar promised that the project would be approved within five days from the Ecnec and that too never happened.”

Assembly to be dissolved on May 28

Mr Shah said constitutionally, the Sindh Assembly would be dissolved on May 28, requiring his government to make the whole annual budget but authorise it just for the first quarter.

“We sought our leadership’s guidance where consensus emerged that it was the right of the next elected government to make its own [budget] but we should authorise for a quarter with no new schemes.”

He said the budget was to be made for the whole year, through which estimates were to be made for the first three months.

“The new assembly will have to authorise the budget from Oct 1,” he added.

Regarding the opposition’s reaction over the Sindh budget, Mr Shah said he was ready to be made accountable for what the PPP government had performed in its decade-long rule in the province.

He said improved security situation had hugely benefited the development portfolio in the province.

Governor’s claim countered

Mr Shah was surprised over Governor Muhammad Zubair’s recent statement in which the latter claimed to perform groundbreaking of schemes in Karachi worth Rs8.6bn this fiscal.

“I have the original copy of this year’s PSDP in which the federal government has not allocated a single penny for Sindh,” he said.

He said this year just Rs5bn had been allocated in the PSDP for projects in Sindh.

He said Islamabad was unnerved over Sindh’s universities bill in which the governor was stripped of powers to control universities.

“They want the governor to control universities while a court judgment is already there against such roles of a governor for universities.”

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2018