Pro-development budgets

Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces have proposed promising allocations for development in their provincial budgets. Both have proposed an increase in the salaries of civil servants, as well as ad hoc provisions for relief and disparity allowance, in a bid to stave off the nagging inflation in the country. While Sindh envisaged no new tax in spending Rs 1.7 trillion, its focus this year is on education with a staggering 25% allocation. While KP’s Rs 1.33 trillion budget is 19% higher than the previous year and includes Rs 185 billion and Rs 20 billion for Settled and Merged Areas respectively. But Sindh, home to Pakistan’s revenue house, Karachi, recorded a deficit of 33.8 billion rupees.

Sindh has come up with smart measures to close the loop underlying 4,158 development programs including 2,506 ongoing and 1,652 new with an allocation of Rs 332.165 billion. This amount is equal to the provincial deficit, and the government has appealed to private contractors with sales tax reductions, and has imposed no new burden on cable companies and real estate companies. Education will receive 326.80 billion rupees, more than 25% of the total budget expenditure, while the health sector was launched with 230.3 billion rupees.

KP’s decision to regularize more than 63,000 employees will have dividends on the political front. As the PTI-led KP sees its 7th consecutive development budget, Rs. 15% of pensions. The annual development program includes 2,239 projects, including 1,710 ongoing projects and 529 new projects. To harness the economic activity, 418 billion rupees will go towards development, in addition to promoting transport networks and encouraging vehicle rental policy.

KP’s add-on package in PTI’s Sehat Card Plus flagship program budget sits above Sindh, and that’s where the southern province needs to tie in. Sindh’s failure to join the bandwagon on providing free universal health care is questionable and must overcome political hurdles. KP’s expansion of the Sehat facility for the treatment of Bone Marrow Transplantation, Multiple Sclerosis, Cochlear Implants, Thalassemia and Advanced Cancer at a cost of Rs 2.5 billion is the welcome. KP and Sindh’s ability to navigate their contested fiscal session, unlike Punjab, is a leap forward.

Published in L’Express Tribune, June 16e2022.

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