KARACHI: As the federal government is busy giving finishing touches to its next year’s budget, Karachi Mayor Murtaza Wahab on Friday sought from the prime minister a comprehensive development package for the metropolis.

Speaking at a press conference here, the mayor asked the Centre to come up with development schemes for the business capital of the country and execute them all through the elected local government.

He said being the revenue engine of the country and centre of economic activities, the city deserved the same financial assistance from the Centre as “it received from the province”.

However, he put forward sketchy proposals when it came to financial assistance from the Centre seeking Islamabad to contribute in “infrastructure development of Karachi”.

Adamant on collecting utility charges via electricity bills; says the tax will generate Rs4.5bn for KMC

Later, he explained to Dawn that he wanted the federal government to make budgetary allocations for Karachi in the federal Public Sector Development Programme.

“From building Northern Bypass to handing over control of the Lyari Expressway to the city government, the Karachi package in fact can be shaped up through different ideas,” he said.

“Since we don’t get any money from the Centre in the budget, a Rs10 billion allocation will be quite meaningful to start such an initiative. The development of this city and execution of different projects don’t only benefit Karachiites, but they also impact Pakistan positively.”

Hopeful of developing consensus on MUCT

At the press conference, the mayor sounded quite excited about the recent verdict of the Sindh High Court which had vacated the stay order on collection of Municipal Utility Charges and Taxes (MUCT) through electricity bills asking the Mayor of Karachi to place the same before the City Council within three months.

The mayor was confident that committee of the council would take up the proposal next week to build consensus and after an approval from such a body it would be forwarded to the City Council.

“This tax would help KMC generating Rs4.5 billion as revenue,” he said. “With such an amount, we would be able to make our union committees resourceful. I would be able to manage funds for my 245 union committees. This is what exactly required by Article 140-A of the Constitution which calls for financial empowerment of the local government. This amount will create so much financial space for the KMC and moves it towards self-reliance.”

When asked about possible resistance from opposition parties and mainly from Jamaat-i-Islami, Mayor Wahab said he would try to build consensus and for that he would reach out to every party which had representation in the council to get their support for “cooperation for the larger interest of the city”.

“We would try to build consensus when we take it up in the meeting of the committee of the City Council,” he said. “I wish that the committee approves it with consensus. But it fails doing so, we would decide on the majority votes. If the majority passes it then we would move it to the council for the approval. Once approved by the city council, we would start collecting it through KE without further delay.”

He also referred to the recently approved Rs12 billion by the Sindh government for the project to construct a new Hub Canal and rehabilitate the existing one through provincial government funding as proposed by the Karachi Water and Sewerage Corporation (KWSC).

Mayor Wahab said that 200 millions of gallons per day of water could be provided to the city from the dam after the completion of the new canal project in 12 months.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2024

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