Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah presented a budget of Rs2,247.6 billion for the financial year 2023-24 with a development outlay of Rs700.1bn centred around the rehabilitation of flood-affected people and social protection for the poor people of the province.
CM Shah, who also holds the portfolio of Sindh finance minister, presented the budget on the floor of the Sindh Assembly.
The total revenue receipts of the provincial government were estimated at Rs2,209.79bn, representing an increase of 31.56 per cent from the concluding financial year 2022-2023, against estimated expenditures of Rs2,247.58bn, representing a shortfall of Rs37.795bn.
An amount of Rs30 billion from the development expenditure was earmarked for the district Annual Development Project (ADP).
While presenting the budget, CM Shah said that education was the most essential investment and was acknowledged worldwide as the most powerful agent of change.
“We aim to improve access to equitable, inclusive and quality education for all,” he added.
The chief minister said the provincial government had earmarked an amount of Rs312.25bn for the education sector in budget estimates for 2023-24, presenting a seven per cent increase over last year’s budget estimates of Rs292.47bn.
Meanwhile, Rs 214.55bn was proposed to be allocated for non-development activities against the budget estimates of Rs196.45bn for the current financial year.
“We have spent more than Rs233bn in FY23 to provide state-of-the-art healthcare infrastructure and easily accessible health facilities to the general public and running programmes for prevention and control of diseases,” the chief minister said.
For the advancement of the transport and mass transit system, the chief minister said it had been proposed to set aside Rs13.4bn with a 92pc increase over last year’s budget amount of Rs6.9bn.
CM Shah said his government was committed to providing safe and modern transport facilities at an affordable price to all citizens.
“We have provided funds of Rs6.1bn for Sindh Intra-District Peoples Bus service this year,” he said, adding that as an “antidote” to hiking fuel and fare prices, a one-time fare subsidy of Rs247 million was provided to the Sindh Intra-District Peoples Bus to be passed on to commuters.
For the second phase of the project, he said an allocation of Rs10bn had been made for the inclusion of a fleet of 500 diesel hybrid buses.
On Karachi’s Green Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, the chief minister said the project was underway at a cost of Rs2.36bn. He said the project’s corridor was 3.88 kilometres in length and would carry 50,000 passengers per day.
On the Red Line BRT, he said it would be a “state-of-the-art third generation BRT system” with a development expenditure of Rs78.38bn. The chief minister said the project was a “Zero Subsidy Project” and 250 bio-hybrid buses would provide service to more than 350,000 passengers per day.
“Additionally, we are also spending Rs2.91bn to improve the drainage along the corridor and more than 25,000 trees will be planted in addition to the landscaping works worth Rs63.4m along the corridor.”
Regarding law and order, Shah said the government had prioritised the allocation of Rs143.57bn for the next financial year with a 15pc increase over last year’s allocation of Rs124.87bn.
“Our enhanced budget allocations for the Home Department for the upcoming fiscal year reflect our commitment to ensuring peace and security in Sindh.
“By allocating resources effectively, we aim to provide our law enforcement and security agencies with the necessary tools and support to protect our province and maintain law and order,” the chief minister said.
The chief minister also announced the much-awaited Rs10bn Sindh Safe Cities Project (Phase-I) for Karachi with a substantial allocation of Rs4.5bn for FY24.
He further announced a 35pc increase in the basic salary of government employees of grades 1 to 16 and a 30pc increase in the salary of government employees of grades 17 and above.
He also proposed a 17.5pc increase in pensions and a 35pc increase in the minimum wage from Rs25,000 to Rs35,550.
The chief minister further said an amount of Rs25.70bn was set aside for the irrigation system for the next financial year.
He said Sindh had one of the largest irrigation systems in the country and the province faced colossal losses during rain and floods, which now demanded extra funding in the next financial year.
The irrigation budget included Rs900m for silt clearance, Rs5bn for overall repair and maintenance of the system and Rs750m for the Salinity Control and Reclamation Programme.
Initiatives for flood affectees
The budget had funds allocated for several measures to help those affected by last year’s floods.
The chief minister said the Sindh government was successful in attracting and securing Chinese grants of Rs7,659m for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of 646 schools.
Under the Flood Restoration Programme and Sindh Development Through Enhanced Education Programme (DEEP), he said 112 damaged schools would be rehabilitated on resilient and environmentally friendly fabricated structures in five districts for Rs3,011m.
Under the Sindh Education and Literacy Department portfolio, 46 new schemes related to the repair/rehabilitation of existing schools damaged by rain, were included in the budget at an estimated cost of Rs4,416.257m, and 45 schemes were dedicated to the construction/reconstruction of existing schools affected by last year’s floods at the cost of Rs4,492m.
A new scheme titled Programme for Flood Response Through Reconstruction Of Education Facilities in Sindh in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was also proposed.
The share of the Sindh Government of Sindh was proposed at Rs142.41m in ADP (2023-24) for districts such as Mirpurkhas, Khairpur, Badin, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sukkur, Ghotki and Dadu, while JICA’s share was estimated at Rs1,424.22m.
CM Shah said the Sindh Housing Project was immediately launched in targeted areas for the rehabilitation of flood affectees.
“As of May 2023, we have received $230m, equivalent to Rs64.67bn, under these projects which are being expended on relief and rehabilitation activities.”
In addition to the above, he said other projects that supported the people of Sindh in the flood-affected areas included the $500m Flood Emergency Rehabilitation Project; the $500m Floods Emergency Housing Reconstruction Project; the $292m Water and Agriculture Transformation Project; the $200m Strengthening Social Protection Delivery System Project and the $200m Integrated Health and Population Project.