KARACHI: With no finance bill on offer by the government, the Sindh Assembly on Friday passed a Rs1.144 trillion tax-free budget for financial year 2018-19 with a deficit of Rs20.46 billion.
On the request of the chief minister, the house authorised the government for expenditures of the first quarter of the financial year 2018-19, leaving it to the assembly after the next general elections to issue authorisation for the rest of the remaining three quarters.
In the budget, priorities were given to improvement in infrastructure development and social sector including education, health and law and order.
The total receipts of the province are at Rs1.124tr. This include Rs665.08bn federal transfers; Rs243.08bn provincial receipts, Rs75.789bn capital receipts; Rs61.91bn others and Rs23.12bn net public accounts.
The total expenditures have been estimated at Rs1.144tr, including current revenue expenditures of Rs773.23bn, current capital expenditures of Rs27.3bn and development expenditures of Rs343.91bn. This shows a deficit of Rs20.457bn.
The house adopted the supplementary budget by approving 86 demands for grants and rejecting 19 cut motions suggested by opposition’s Sumeta Syed and Rana Ansar.
All opposition’s cut motions rejected
The house also discussed cut motions submitted by the opposition against demand for grants for the budget 2018-19.
More than 400 cut motions were submitted against 49 demands of the total 153 demands for grants. All cut motions were rejected by a majority vote when put to the house.
CM winds up budget debate
Before laying of next year’s budget and supplementary budget for the current fiscal, Leader of the House Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah wound up the general discussion.
In his speech, he said Sindh was the only province which had properly presented and got passed the annual budget by duly authorising from the assembly expenditures for the first quarter of the next fiscal.
He said Punjab had hurriedly passed its supplementary budget for the current fiscal year without allowing a discussion while in Balochistan only three days were given to get the budget passed.
“And the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly has not yet passed the supplementary budget, which is mandatory before June 30,” said CM Shah.
The chief minister said he was proud to be a member of the assembly which gave space to all its members. He said before his speech 70 members took part in the general discussion and most of them belonged to the opposition who spoke for around 13 hours.
He said Article 25 of the Constitution allowed a provincial government to get passed the budget without inviting criticism from the opposition and “in five minutes by presenting it in the house”.
He said the Constitution did not restrict the government to present a full year’s budget, but “we want you to speak so that we could know about your real guise”.
He said the government would have passed just the supplementary budget for the current fiscal year. But, as the caretaker government was meant to hold elections and not to prepare budgets, the Pakistan Peoples Party’s leadership guided the government to prepare a full-year budget with authorisation for the first quarter — till Sept 30.
Opposition members’ absence
Mr Shah expressed his disappointment over the miserably poor attendance of the opposition members during his speech.
Only four opposition members were present when the CM began his speech. Although the number increased later, yet it barely cross double digit during his articulation that lasted for more than two-and-a-half hours.
He reported about what happened at the meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) last month from which he, along with chief ministers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan had walked out, protesting that Islamabad had not included their schemes in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).
He said the federal government had gravely ignored Sindh in the PSDP, which was evident from the fact that Sindh’s share in Rs150bn highways sector was just Rs4bn; Rs300m in water sector with total national allocation of Rs27bn and just Rs125m out of Rs26bn for Sindh in power sector.
He said all the four chief ministers who attended the meeting of the Council of Common Interests agreed that presenting a full-year budget by the federal government was wrong. He said nine of the 13 members of the NEC attended the meeting and five of them walked out, thus only four members including the PM passed the PSDP while it needed at least seven members.
“We the provinces were told at the NEC meeting that they [PM and others] did not need us when we protested against the grossly unfair share being given to the smaller provinces.”
He said Islamabad backed down on provision of funds it had promised to Sindh. “This fiscal year, first they promised to provide us Rs627bn, which they reduced to Rs598bn in March while so far they had given just Rs459bn, and I fear they would not give us that money in the remaining 40 days of the current fiscal.”
Mr Shah said such delays and reduction in the federal transfers affected development schemes.
721 schemes completed in current fiscal year
He said his government had completed 536 schemes in the last fiscal year and now it had improved this year with 721 schemes.
He said 958 schemes would be completed in the next fiscal year as he was sure the PPP’s performance would help it winning another five-year mandate.
He said he was not interested in seeking opposition’s endorsement for credit to bringing peace in Sindh, Karachi in particular.
“On the contrary, we give due credit to you as well for that peace as it was made possible when your organisation tore apart and terrorists got separated from you,” he said.
He said since Feb 16, 2017 attack on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine, Sindh had not seen any terrorist act.
He said he condemned all those people who talk about the division of Sindh. “I curse those who talk about the division of Sindh. I make it clear that these people should get such notions out of their heads.”
He asked the opposition benches to “shun the mindset based on ethnicity”.
He rejected the claim of a Pakistan Muslim League-Functional lawmaker that slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had allocated funds for the Kalabagh dam in the federal budget of 1996-97.
He said his cabinet had formulated rules for the agriculture income tax and now it was fully active.
Rs833bn spent on Sindh’s development in 10 years
He said a total of Rs833bn had been spent on the development of Sindh since 2008-9 in which 4,300 schemes had been completed.
He said indirect taxes were key revenue makers across the globe.
He ran a slideshow in the house in which he showed his government’s performance in road sector, irrigation, and small dams. He said embankments had been strengthened in a manner that Sindh was able to cope against possible super floods.
He also spoke about the health sector and development in Thar.
Mr Shah said 71 per cent of those working at the Thar Coal project belonged to the desert district. He said Block II of the Thar project had been completed and would be ready to generate power by December.
He said Sindh had invested Rs75bn on Thar’s development and its human development, which included award of shares to Thari people in the project. Besides, schools, health facilities and houses were being offered to local people.
He said a drought in Thar “has become irrelevant” in the desert with bio-saline technology by which fishing and agriculture had been made possible.
Besides, 28 women were driving dumper trucks and Thar’s first female engineer had joined the project.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2018