PESHAWAR: The finance department has proposed the creation of new districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the basis of population and area and not political one to prevent the expenditure of billions of rupees for putting up new administrative units.
The proposal will be submitted to the provincial capital in its meeting today (Tuesday) for a detailed discussion.
It was put up in the last cabinet meeting, too, but discussion on it was deferred.
A summary for the purpose was prepared around a month after the cabinet approved the bifurcation of Chitral district in Nov last year.
The last PTI government had carved out three districts from Kohistan district on political considerations.
Proposal to be discussed by cabinet today
The finance department summary seen by Dawn said the government had to bear a burden of Rs1.7 billion per annum in case of the creation of a new province, while it took the minimum cost of Rs4 billion to set up infrastructure for administrative setup over and above the routine annual development programme to upgrade tehsil level institutions to the district level.
It proposed the revisiting of the policy of creating new districts in view of financial constraints facing the province and to increase fiscal space for development initiatives.
“A more prudent way (for the districts’ creation) could be devising a formula based on population and area,” it said, adding that the delegation of authority to the lower tiers of government can alley some of the concerns, which emerge due to the people travelling long distances for certain services.
The summary said the creation of new districts was found in the fundamentals of governance and fiscal decentralisation and thus, ensuing greater public good and better service delivery at the local level.
It added that the laudable approach in question couldn’t undermine the challenges caused by new districts and that sometimes, the challenges outdid the benefits and the main purpose of decentralisation was lost.
“Such district creation should be based on proper resources and revenue generation potential of the respective areas to help ensure sustainability,” it said.
The summary said the newly-created districts had weak institutional capacity and lacked financial resilience and therefore, they produced negative financial implications for the government.
“These financial implications are inclusive of establishment of new infrastructure, physical assets, creation of new posts and extension of existing resources that result into additional liabilities on the already soaring current side of the provincial budget and thus fiscal space for development is further reduced,” it added.
Sources said the fiscal implications of hiring of over 3,000 staff members for 25 government departments alone caused the annual additional burden of Rs1.7 billion for the provincial exchequer, while an additional amount of Rs4 billion was spent on the establishment of infrastructure to accommodate the administrative machinery of new districts.
The last Pervez Khattak-led PTI government had divided Kohistan into three districts, which, according to the 2017 population census, has a total population of 787,000.
Similarly, Chitral, which was the province’s largest administrative unit before its bifurcation in Nov last year, has a population of 447,000, while Torghar district, which was created under the ANP government, has a population of 171,395.
On the other hand, most of the districts, including Charsadda, Lower Dir, Abbottabad, Haripur, Nowshera, Swabi, Dera Ismail Khan, Mansehra and Bannu, have a population of over one million each, while Peshawar’s residents total 4.2 million and Mardan and Swat’s over two million each.
Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019