Compared to the “Go Nawaz Go” chants of the federal budget and the ruckus in the Punjab budget, the Sindh budget was passed amid thunderous applause because of PPP’s ruling majority. The balanced Rs3.06 trillion budget allocated a third of its outlay for development expenses (Rs959 billion).

Outdoing the salary hike by the federal government, Sindh offers salary increments of up to 30 per cent to its provincial government employees.

The province’s expenses will be met through provincial tax collection, which, at Rs662bn, will account for roughly 22pc. The increase in the rate of provincial sales on taxes by two percentage points to 15 per cent will generate about an additional Rs120bn to take total Sindh sales tax (SST) collection to Rs350bn in the next fiscal year, but it will have an inflationary effect of increasing prices. The remaining 78pc will be generated through federal transfers, borrowing, foreign project assistance and the money left over from FY24.

Last year, the federal government proposed reducing the service tax on eateries in Islamabad to 5pc if payment is made through debit or credit cards. In a similar bid towards digitisation, the Sindh budget proposes reducing SST to 8pc for restaurant services if payment is made through cards, mobile wallets, etc.

While attempting to increase social welfare, the budget mostly ignores Karachi’s needs

The farmers, the main vote bank of PPP, got a 62pc hike in agricultural budget allocation, to Rs30.7bn from Rs18.9bn last year. Among the major initiatives under the agriculture sector is the registration process of 788,000 out of 1.2m farmers so that timely and effective financial assistance can be provided to them, for which Rs8bn was allocated.

“Salaam hai Sindh ka logoan ko,” said the provincial chief minister and finance minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, praising his people for helping to produce a bumper wheat crop after the floods of 2022 that affected two-thirds of the province. While saddened by the devastation, agriculture experts at that time also added that floods result in more fertile soil and were quasi-expecting strong harvests when the flood waters drained away.

The budget focuses on social protection for the impoverished and rehabilitation post-floods. Remaining true to the image of the party that was made famous through its “roti, kapra, makaan” moto, the chief minister, in his budget speech, emphasised the social delivery of its tertiary hospitals, health facilities, climate-resilient housing and cheaper electricity through Thar coal and its renewable projects.

Sindh did not introduce any new schemes in the Annual Development Programme, preferring to focus on completing projects that have been ongoing for the last decade. Unfortunately, that meant that Karachi, as forgotten as ever, did not receive an allocation for a new mega development scheme for the second consecutive year. It did, however, get an allocation of Rs1.4bn for 11 ongoing ‘mega schemes’.

Cars and heartbeats in Karachi speed up at the sound of a motorbike as one expects to be mugged on gun points. Last year, more than 90,000 incidents of street crime were reported, an 11pc increase for 2022. Thus, measures for using tech to combat crime are very welcome, assuming they are implemented. About Rs3.74bn have been earmarked to contribute towards 483 ‘smart police stations’ across the province and Rs3.5bn for cameras in Karachi for increased surveillance. A further Rs1bn has been allocated for a ‘state of the art’ command and control centre.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, June 17th, 2024

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