KARACHI: After six days of discussion, the Sindh Assembly on Saturday passed the Rs1.24 trillion tax-free budget, with a deficit of Rs18.38 billion, for the financial year 2020-21 with majority of votes amid opposition protest.

The budget was passed within half an hour after the house approved all demands for grants moved by Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah as the opposition did not move cut motions for discussion on expenditures.

As the chief minister, who also holds the portfolio of finance, rose to move demands for supplementary grants of last year, the opposition members belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Grand Democratic Alliance stood holding placards and started shouting.

Their protest, however, didn’t hinder the budget proceedings.

Opposition didn’t move any cut motions on expenditures; MQM boycotts proceedings

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan members boycotted the proceedings.

PTI, GDA stage protest as MQM boycotts

Opposition Leader Firdaus Shamim Naqvi said the provincial government had failed to provide a ‘genuine’ reason for supplementary expenditures in fiscal year 2019-20, asking the government to inform the assembly members why the provincial administration needed supplementary expenditures.

While the PTI and GDA members gathered in front of the speaker’s dais chanting “shame shame and jhoot jhoot (lie lie)” slogans, the chief minister got approval of 43 demands for supplementary expenditures during the last year and 157 demands, authorising the provincial government for expenditures of over Rs1.24tr with a majority of votes.

The chief minister said that for the first time in his parliamentary career, the budget was passed in half an hour, jibing that it reflected the trust of the opposition who didn’t move cut motions.

“I am thankful to the opposition for reposing their confidence in the budget 2020-21 because they did not submit cut motions,” he said.

Taking exception to the opposition protest, he said that instead of participating in the budgetary process they preferred to remember their days of dharna on the container resorting to “hooliganism” and disturbing the house.

‘PTI misguided SC on vehicles’ purchase’

The CM said that the PTI governments at the centre, Punjab and KP had filed “wrong” figures in the Supreme Court, therefore, he would submit a detailed expenditures list of his government and the governments of other provinces and the federal government incurred on purchase of vehicles.

He added that the Sindh government had imposed a ban on purchase of new vehicles for which a notification was issued on June 24.

The chief minister said that during the last four years, 2016-17 to 2018-19, the Sindh government had purchased vehicles worth Rs7.2bn while the Punjab government spent Rs16.15bn, Balochistan Rs7.8bn, KP spent Rs5.2bn and the federal government spent Rs23.01bn for the same purpose.

“Despite the fact the Sindh government was under criticism,” he added.

Sharing the year-wise expenditures incurred on the purchase of vehicles, the CM said that in 2018-19, the Sindh government purchased vehicles worth Rs330.5 million, Punjab Rs1.447bn, Balochistan Rs1.878bn, KP Rs1.361bn and the federal government Rs5.501bn.

In 2019-20, Sindh spent Rs438.5m on purchase of vehicles, Punjab utilised Rs3.416bn on purchase of vehicles, Balochistan Rs2.533bn, KP Rs2.093bn and the federal government had spent Rs4.517bn.

As a matter of fact, in 2019-20, Sindh has spent Rs3.625bn budget estimates for purchase of vehicles, Punjab Rs1.7bn, Balochistan Rs4.8bn and KP Rs192.4m.

Schemes for Karachi

The chief minister said that Karachi got Rs26.8bn ADP schemes.

He added that apart from the ADP, there were foreign-funded projects which the provincial government had to pay back to the donor agencies. They include Rs202bn Red Line BRT, Yellow Line BRT, Karachi urban mobility project, water and sewerage improvement plan, Karachi neighbourhood improvement project, compatible liveable city of Karachi, solid waste emergency and efficiency project.

A sum of Rs2.4bn had been allocated for completion of ongoing schemes, he added.

He said that apart from the ADP and foreign-funded projects there were a number of projects to be started in 2020-21.

Malir Expressway would be started in 2020-21 at a cost of Rs27.5bn and hopefully Rs10bn would be spent during the next financial year, he said and added there was a Rs6.5bn project of reconstruction of link road and over Rs2bn would be spent during 2020-21.

The CM said that there was a Karachi Urban Road project under which three projects — Korangi causeway, ICI junction interchange, Hawkesbay Y-junction — would be executed.

These three projects would cost around Rs12bn and hopefully over Rs4bn to be utilized in 2020-21.

He added that there was a Rs25bn municipal waste water recycling project of Karachi Water and Sewerage Board on which Rs5bn would be utilized in 2020-21. The Hub canal rehabilitation project was worth Rs7bn and Rs1bn would be utilised in 2020-21.

He said that the federal government had refused to share the cost of the S-III project, therefore it would be launched on public-private partnership mode.

Work on five combined effluent treatment plants would be started in the next financial year, he said, adding that there was a total allocation of Rs80bn against which Rs20bn would be utilised in 2020-21.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2020