PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Saturday complained that the centre had slashed its annual allocations for the province’s tribal districts by Rs21 billion in the next fiscal.
Addressing a news conference at the Civil Secretariat here, provincial finance minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra said for the first time since the merger of Fata with KP, the tribal region would receive fewer funds from the centre compared with the previous year’s.
He said the tribal districts’ allocations in the current fiscal totalled Rs131 billion but they had been reduced to Rs110 billion in the next.
Mr Jhagra said the 2021-22 federal budget had Rs60 billion for tribal districts as current expenditure,Rs17 billion for the rehabilitation of internally displaced persons and Rs54 billion for the region’s development.
Minister warns funding cut will badly impact uplift
He said the next federal budget had zero funding for the rehabilitation of IDPs, while development budget was reduced to Rs50 billion.
The minister said ex-Fata’s allocations for current expenditure would remain Rs60 billion in the next fiscal.
He said the PTI government had increased funds for tribal districts more than three times.
Mr Jhagra said the current expenditure of tribal districts had already exceeded Rs60 billion and was likely to reach Rs62 billion mark by the end of the outgoing financial year.
He also said the federal government had increased the salaries of its employees by 15 per cent besides pension, while the non-salary expenditure of the region would also increase due to infrastructure development.
The minister wondered if the tribal districts’ current expenditure stood at Rs62 billion in the current fiscal, how justified the federal government was in allocating Rs60 billion for it next year.
He complained that the federal government didn’t formally involve the provincial government about those allocations before the budget announcement.
Mr Jhagra said he took the initiative of going to Islamabad and held informal meetings with the relevant officials and tried to explain to them the ground realities for required funds.
“We [Peshawar] did not receive even a single paper about the tribal region’s budget from Islamabad,” he said.
The minister said the finance department shared with the federal government on June 6 the budgetary estimates for tribal region but there came no response.
He said in the last quarter of the current fiscal, the government did not release development funds insisting it had withheld such funding nationwide.
Mr Jhagra said the tribal areas’ budget was not part of Public Sector Development Programme and instead, the province was receiving those funds under the National Finance Commission to manage the region’s affairs.
He said the federal government initially stopped the release of Rs17 billion development funds for tribal areas but half of that money was released after much hue and cry with the remaining Rs8.5 billion still outstanding.
The minister said he had taken up the issue with federal finance minister Miftah Ismail, who promised Rs74-Rs80 billion funding for the tribal region’s current expenditure and insisted he would highlight it in his budget speech, but the promise wasn’t fulfilled.
He said he had learned that the federal cabinet discussed the issue but its members from KP, including MNA Mohsin Dawar and those of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, allegedly opposed an increase in the current expenditure of tribal districts.
Mr Jhagra said if the required funds weren’t provided to the provincial government, it would cut development expenditure.
He said the provincial government won’t take the budget cut by the centre lying down.
Published in Dawn,June 12th, 2022