PESHAWAR: The opposition members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Friday rejected the province’s next budget declaring revenue estimates for the financial year 2019-20 exaggerated, unrealistic and unachievable.

During the budget debate in the house, they said the next budget mostly relied on federal transfers and that in light of the existing economic crisis, it was impossible for the federal government to achieve its tax targets, which would ultimately reduce the province’s share in the federal divisible pool.

The budget was presented by the government on Tuesday, while the house began debate on it on Friday amid rumpus by the treasury and opposition lawmakers.

The session was chaired by Deputy Speaker Mahmood Jan.

Initiating debate, leader of the opposition Mohammad Akram Khan Durrani rejected the government’s claim of presenting the Rs45 billion surplus budget.

MMA member threatens to move court over discriminatory allocations

He said usually, the government didn’t meet its revenue targets, so the budget presented for the next fiscal was a deficit one.

The opposition leader said in the last year’s speech on the 2018-19 budget, he had claimed that the budget had Rs65 billion deficit, which was confirmed by the 2019-20 budget documents.

“The documents of the next budget show that the provincial government had pitched the estimated revenue at Rs648 billion, while its revised estimate showed the figure of Rs587 billion verifying my claims,” he said.

Mr Durrani said while presenting its seventh budget, the ruling PTI had again exaggerated revenue estimates for the next fiscal.

He said the government had ignored the underdeveloped areas of the province.

“The (ruling) PTI has allocated only Rs20 million for the construction of the Chashma Right Bank Canal though it requires billions of rupees, while Rs1.8 billion has been earmarked for media campaign.

“What the government will tell the people through media campaign, especially when it hasn’t executed any mega project,” he said.

The opposition leader said Kohat division fed the national and provincial economies by producing oil and gas but ironically, the provincial government had allocated only Rs3 billion for its development.

He came down hard on the government for stopping work on the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transport project.

Mr Durrani demanded of the government to set up a commission of the assembly to probe irregularities in the BRT project.

“The budget documents were not provided to lawmakers so that they couldn’t point out flaws in the budget. I got a copy of the budget document from the finance secretary,” he said.

Participating in the debate, MMA MPA Inayatullah Khan said 93 percent of the provincial budget relied on transfers from the federal divisible pool, so if the national economy continued to be in bad shape, then the federal government won’t achieve its revenue targets and as a result, it would cut the share of the provinces in federal transfers.

“The allocation of funds in ADP is discriminatory as the government has ignored underdeveloped areas of the province. If the ADP is not rationalised by providing enough share to backward areas, then I will challenge this budget in the court of law,” he said.

Responding to the opposition’s criticism, finance minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra said the opposition’s good suggestions would be incorporated in budget documents.

“We have worked tirelessly on every aspect of the budget. All budget estimates are based on facts,” he said.

The house also witnessed rumpus for some time as PPP MPA Sher Azam Wazir spoke against some members of the federal cabinet.

Members of the PTI and PPP had heated exchanges.

The chair adjourned the session until today (Saturday).

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2019