Sindh hopes to complete one-fifth of all ongoing development projects by the turn of the current fiscal year in June.
Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah’s economic team is already busy identifying and processing projects for the next year to ensure quick funding after the budget to generate political capital for the 2018 elections.
According to officials 500 development schemes will be completed out of a total of 2,773 by 31 June. Most (1,777) of 2,773 were old schemes while the rest (996) were launched in 2016-17 covering agriculture, infrastructure, education, health, transport and skills development.
Major completed projects in the current year included the creation of GIS for land administration and revenue management information system, Cadet College Gadab, upgradation of Jacobabad Institute of Medical Sciences, extension of water supply in Badin, road from Wango Mor to Thar coalfield area.
During the year the shortfall in targeted federal transfers did squeeze the fiscal space. The provincial economic team, therefore, saw a grim chance of surrendering surplus that could help the federal government lock the fiscal deficit around 3.8pc of the GDP in the outgoing fiscal year.
The provincial team members were confident that the province will improve its performance scorecard by ensuring uninterrupted flow of funds to near completion schemes in the year ahead. They hoped to significantly improve governance standards in the province by pursuing reforms under the watch of the World Bank and the European Union.
To this end Sindh launched its Budget Strategy Paper 2017-20, a three-year rolling plan under the EU supported public financial management programme and the World Bank sponsored public sector management reform.
The paper spells policy sets and priorities, reviews fiscal performance of the last two years and projects revenue and expenditure over the next three years. The aim is to address systematic management weaknesses that compromise the credibility of the government by adhering to demands of transparency, accounting and reporting.
According to details provided by the provincial planning department, disbursement of development funds by the first week of May 2017 amounted to Rs184 billion of Rs265bn of the Annual Development Plan (ADP) of which Rs106bn (about 60pc) have already been used. With most busy months in terms of bill clearing, the total release of funds is expected to touch 80pc level by the close of the year.
Muhammad Wasim, additional chief secretary, Sindh and chairman, Planning and Development Board, was not fully satisfied but considered the improvement to be significant under the circumstances.
Comparing the quality of governance of Sindh with Punjab he said, “More than performance it is an issue of perception. The hard work of the ruling team in Sindh has started to yield results”.
He partially blamed the media for not reporting judiciously on the good work in the province. “Sometimes it is an issue of focusing more on shortfalls but at others it is plain and simple misreporting, particularly on electronic media.
“The fact is that we have raised the bar higher in fiscal year 2017. Dispersal of 80pc of the allocated development budget is no mean achievement. We have set a new record that will hopefully break next fiscal”, he said, attributing the change to motivational skills of a Chief Minister determined to make up for lost time.
Wasim was particularly excited over the progress of development work in Karachi. “After a very long time Karachi is getting the attention it deserves. Next year it will again get Rs10bn for development”, he said. When his attention was drawn to difficulties that people are facing while commuting and the water problem his reply was measured.
“The gains will make people forget the pain once roads and the underpass and bypass projects become functional. The province is undertaking the K4 water project to ease the water problem. The federal government has agreed to share 50pc of the cost with the province”, he disclosed mentioning a few road projects like Tariq Road that is completed.
“Murad is determined to change the fortunes of his home province. The demographic complexities pose challenges but he has succeeded in raising a small team of dedicated technology savvy officers to close efficiency gaps and curb corruption”, said another senior bureaucrat discussing Sindh.
Afzal Zaidi, an official of the finance department provided an update on revenue mobilisation in Sindh over the current year. He said the Sindh Revenue Board was on track and expected to achieve its target cent per cent.
Sindh has already raised Rs110bn by end April against the projection of Rs166bn. The final figures will be shared after consolidation but Rs127bn that were to be mobilised though other sources will also be realised. The shortfall of 10pc is expected in federal transfers.
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, May 15th, 2017