Cash-strapped govt squanders money on image-building

Published May 17, 2023
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar chairs a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee on Tuesday. — Photo courtesy: PID
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar chairs a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee on Tuesday. — Photo courtesy: PID

ISLAMABAD: The current fiscal year is about to close with extraordinarily tight fiscal positions and the austerity policy of the PDM government, but discretionary spending on development schemes for constituencies of parliamentarians of the coalition partners and publicity continues to grow.

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Tuesday enhanced the allocations for parliamentarian’s constituencies under the so-called Sustainable Development Goals Achievement Programme (SDGs-AP) by Rs1bn to Rs91bn when it approved a total of nine supplementary grants worth about Rs11bn.

The meeting presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was told that the government had allocated Rs70bn in the budget 2022-23 for ‘running community-based SAP’ to achieve the SDGs addressing the urban-rural social development constraints across the country.

The funds for the scheme were increased by Rs17bn to Rs87bn in October last year to ensure that all 174 members of the National Assembly belonging to Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) get Rs500m worth of small schemes — sewage lines, gas, water and electricity connections, and repair and maintenance of streets — in the name of SDGs.

Accordingly, the sources said, the Ministry of Planning surrendered Rs17bn from funds earlier allocated in the budget for areas such as Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and parts of the provinces.

The funds were subsequently enhanced by Rs3bn more to Rs90bn “which has already been released/transferred to the respective ministries, divisions and provincial governments under the Demand No. 92-IB-0600-Develo­pment Expen­diture of the Cabinet Division”, the ECC was informed on Tuesday.

Of the already disbursed funds, the lion’s share of Rs46.125bn went to Punjab, followed by Rs29.155bn to Sindh and then Rs7.73bn and Rs6.99bn to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, respectively.

The development schemes under the SAP, recommended by members, are then cleared by a steering committee led by the planning minister — an arrangement put in place a few years ago to sidestep a Supreme Court judgement.

The ECC also approved two supplementary grants of Rs5.57bn and Rs1.146bn to the Ministry of Commerce as 50pc share of the expenses on the import of urea fertiliser and exchange rate differential to Pakistan’s trade missions abroad, respectively.

The meeting also approved two supplementary grants of Rs1.666bn and Rs100mn to the National Highway Authority (NHA) to meet its expenditure incurred on the restoration of roads damaged during flood 2022 in KP, GB, Balochistan and Sindh, and for the construction of roads from Dalbandin to Ziarat Balanosh (77km), respectively.

The ECC also approved Rs17.3m to Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission to meet its employee-related expenditures and Rs922m to Power Division for the execution of the development project “Construction of 2nd Circuit stringing from Jiwani to Gwadar”.

The committee also approved a Rs50m grant to the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation & Social Safety for SOS Children’s Villages, Pakistan and Rs550m to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for publicity/awareness campaigns of the federal government during 2022-23.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2023

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