Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah speaks at the post-budget press conference on Saturday.—PPI
Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah speaks at the post-budget press conference on Saturday.—PPI

KARACHI: Claiming that the development budget of Sindh is much higher than other provinces, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that he has conveyed his reservations to Islamabad over the Centre’s failure to give a new National Finance Commission (NFC) award for distribution of funds among provinces despite passing more than a decade.

At the post-budget press conference, the chief minister spoke about his telephonic contact with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif after his budget speech at the Sindh Assembly on Friday evening.

He asked the federal government to constitute the NFC, but at the same time was not very hopeful that such initiative would be taken by the PML-N-led federal government.

The chief minister claimed that only the PPP government in the Centre would be able to take such initiative.

Says Sindh’s development budget percentage is much higher than Punjab, KP’s

“The Constitution demands NFC after every five years. It was the PPP government which had announced the last NFC in 2010. Both respective governments of PML-N from 2013 to 2018 and then PTI government from 2018 to 2022 remained unmoved on this subject,” he said, adding: “The next NFC is due in 2025 and I can only demand and hope that PM Shehbaz Sharif takes notice of this and issues the NFC. But I think that it would be only the PPP government which would do that when it come into power in the Centre.”

‘Rs959bn set aside for Sindh uplift is unprecedented’

“We have set aside Rs959 billion for the development expenses which is unprecedented,” the chief minister said.

“I have gone through the numbers of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa budgets and I can say that our development budget percentage is much higher than that of other provinces. Despite all challenges and minimum resources, we have put all efforts to make it a people-friendly budget and people will see the results of all these efforts.”

“Have you ever seen an airport built by a provincial government in any small city or rural town,” he said. “We have built an airport in Thar. The 3,500 megawatts of electricity produced in Sindh is being supplied to Faisalabad. We have seen NHA build even inter-district roads in Punjab. But here in Sindh they do not build Hyderabad-Sukkur motorway. We are doing it on our own. You can drive from Nawabshah to Sanghar and from Sanghar to Mirpurkhas and then Khipro to Umerkot, you will see tangible development.”

Responding to a question, the CM was visibly aggressive when he denied the impression of slow development of road networks in Sindh compared to other provinces and slow pace development of infrastructure.

He referred to a number of projects executed by the Sindh government “on its own” over the years which had enhanced the city-to-city connectivity.

Claims Karachi is not neglected in budget

The CM also ruled out that the PPP-led Sindh government had not announced any new mega development scheme for Karachi in its budget for the financial year 2024-25.

He referred to the allocation of Rs10bn for the Karachi development schemes from the total funding of Rs76bn which would be received from the Centre.

“We haven’t included any new scheme in provincial ADP as a principle. But this is not true that we haven’t planned any mega scheme or development project for Karachi. Out of Rs76bn we would receive from the federal government, Rs10bn has been allocated for Karachi projects which will be executed by the Sindh government,” he replied to a query.

He also denied the impression about the “deep-rooted corruption culture” in Sindh institutions where no development work was done without “bribe”.

“This is not true and let me tell you that the people [of Sindh] do not agree with you as they have elected us [in Feb 8 elections],” he said.

SRB ‘almost met’ Rs235bn target

He said three main institutions which collect taxes include the Sindh Revenue Board, which has almost met the last year’s target of Rs235bn collection.

For the next fiscal, it has been tasked with collecting Rs350bn, he added.

Similarly, the excise and taxation department has also met its 2023-24 target of Rs30bn, he said.

“Among these three institutions, the performance of board of revenue is really weak and unsatisfactory. They are not meeting their targets and unable to collect the agriculture income tax. We are meeting regularly and planning for its improvement. For this year, we have set a target of Rs61bn for the Board of Revenue,” he added.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2024

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