PESHAWAR: Opposition members in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Monday rejected the provincial government’s budget for the next fiscal year as “unrealistic, based on presumptions, and without resource allocations.”

During the session chaired by Speaker Babar Saleem Swati, the opposition members said it was a political stunt on part of the provincial government to present its budget before the federal government announced its financial plans for 2024–25.

They insisted that the province depended on the centre’s funding for 92 per cent of its expenditure.

“Preempting the federal budget is nothing but a political stunt on part of the KP government,” Leader of the Opposition Dr. Ibadullah Khan told the house.

Insists pre-empting federal budget provincial govt’s political stunt

He claimed that the province’s 2023–24 budget was based on 84 per cent of funds from the centre but its next budget had even gone beyond that.

Dr Khan said nobody knew how much the province received from the centre under the heads of the National Finance Commission Award, net hydel profit, and war on terror in the outgoing financial year.

He wondered how the provincial government could presume that the federal government would provide it with Rs1.1 trillion for fighting terrorism, Rs311 billion as NHP and Rs259 billion for the development of merged tribal districts in the next fiscal, while Rs130 billion would come as foreign aid.

The opposition leader said the 2023–24 provincial budget had Rs91.9 billion for the war on terrorism, and the government could get hold of just Rs85 billion,so how it could presume to receive Rs108 billion for the purpose from the centrenext year.

He said the provincial government had projected net hydel profit at Rs85.1 billion in 2023–24 but got only Rs7 billion, but still, it had unrealistically pitched that funding in the next fiscal at Rs111.3 billion.

Dr. Khan questioned how the province would claim that amount of money from the centre with the chief minister’s hostile approach towards the federal government.

He also criticised the government for allocating just 4.2 per cent of the budget for the agriculture sector, saying 70 per cent of the province’s population depends on agriculture, so that allocation is meagre.

The opposition leader also rejected 1.8 per cent of the budget’s funding for clean drinking water, 5.5 per cent for elementary and secondary education, 8.5 per cent for healthcare, 1.1 per cent for higher education, 0.4 per cent for information technology, and 0.05 per cent for minerals, declaring those funds too little.

He alleged that Rs5 billion in funds were embezzled during wheat procurement by the province in the last 10 days.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl leader Lutfur Rehman also flayed the provincial government for announcing its budget even before the announcement of the federal budget and requested the house to reject the move.

He also urged the government to come up with a budget “based on facts.”

“The development outlay has been pitched at Rs416 billion after an increase of Rs115 billion compared with the outgoing year’s. This is an unrealistic figure,” he said.

Mr Rehman said the province lacked the capacity to speedily complete development projects, as many of them had been lingering on for years.

He insisted that the law and order situation in the province was not in anyone’s hands, so how the government could claim to improve the financial situation amid a law and order crisis.

The JUI-F member said decisions were “taken and implemented somewhere else.”

Awami National Party MPA Arbab Usman wondered how the provincial government could claim to collect $4.6 billion in revenue at a time when there was no actual business activity in the province.

He said the provincial government insisted that it wanted to build a welfare state that could happen only through industrialisation.

Ehsanullah Khan of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Shehla Bano of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, and Adnan Khan of the JUI-F, along with Mohammad Riaz and Ijaz Mohammad, also spoke in the session.

The house also adopted a resolution relaxing rules for holding budget discussions during public holidays.

The chair later adjourned the session until today (Tuesday) afternoon over a lack of quorum.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2024

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