Cash-strapped Balochistan asks Centre for assistance

Updated 06 Oct 2018

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Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal. —  Photo/File
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal. — Photo/File

QUETTA: Balochistan Finance Minister Mir Arif Jan Muhammad Hasni has said that the province is facing a severe financial crisis, and warned that it will deteriorate if immediate measures are not taken by Islamabad to bail the province out.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday afternoon with Minister for Information Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi and Finance Secretary Noorul Amin Mengal, Mr Hasni said that the province has a deficit of Rs75 billion in the current budget.

The Balochistan government is set to take up the matter with the prime minister who is due to visit Quetta on Saturday. Mr Hasni blamed the previous governments for financial mismanagement and bad governance for the crisis.

Province faces a deficit of Rs75 billion in the current budget

He said that the previous government passed a Rs352bn budget for the financial year 2018-19, which is the highest in the history of Balochistan, allocating Rs88bn for the annual Public Sector Development Programme (PSPD). “With a deficit of Rs75bn, we are going to begin spending the Rs75bn set aside for the PSDP.”

Alluding to the tremendous difficulty, the finance minister remarked, “though it is a challenge for us, we will get it done with the help of Islamabad.”

He added that how this PSDP and the ones before it were prepared are an open secret. But, the government does not have the time to hold three cabinet meetings to rationalise the PSDP. Several schemes have been removed from the plans nonetheless, and members of the Chief Minister’s Inspection Team are scrutinising all plans to see if they will benefit the public.

Mr Hasni added that anyone who was found responsible for approving schemes that are not beneficial to the public, and have only been included as a way of rent-seeking, will be punished. He said that in view of the financial crisis, the Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan has decided to surrender his discretionary grant. Last year Rs 830 million in discretionary grants was utilized by the former chief minister.

Mr Hasni said that Balochistan has received Rs350bn under seventh NFC award in the last eight years but the sum was wasted over exploration of minerals and tourism, which did not yield any benefits.

The finance minister said that the incumbent provincial government has decided to strengthen the provincial fisheries, livestock, mineral and tourism departments, which are critical sources of revenue for the province.

Referring to the increase of the budget for law and order, Mr Hasni said that the provincial annual budget for law and order has increased from Rs5bn to Rs40bn.

He said that after education the provincial government has been spending a major amount on the law and order situation. That push to protect the people has meant that health has taken a back seat for some time. The finance minister added that the former government did nothing to establish a revenue board and authority like Punjab and Sindh have.

“Balochistan is the future of Pakistan and our team will do its best to overcome all of the problems prevalent in the province.”

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2018