Walkouts and disruption, once a sign of extreme dissatisfaction, have become so common that they could be considered part of the parliamentary convention now. While the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led protests and walkouts in the National Assembly during the announcement of the federal budget, the party faced identical disruptions by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in its budgetary session in the Sindh Assembly.

Regardless of antics – as is the norm – the government managed to pass its budget for the financial year 2017-18, showing total receipts of Rs1028.865 billion and estimated expenditures of Rs1043.185 billion, indicating a deficit of Rs14.32bn. In a generally sensible budget, the concerns over revenue remain outstanding.

This is another year where the Sindh government has run a budget deficit, indicating that revenue streams need to be improved. However, not much has happened on that front. The government raised the allocation for education by 24% and law and order by 10%, while also promising to increase the salaries of all employees by 10%. All are positive steps – especially the increase in government employee’s salaries which have stagnated behind the national average – but they do add to the expenditure.

For a province that relies heavily on federal grants the strategies for revenue generation are not too promising. The budget has been presented as a “no-tax” budget but this title is fairly misleading. While introducing no new tax the government has included various services that will be charged a sales tax, continuing the misguided policy to charge sales not income. The services include chartered flights, consultancy, public relations, visa processing, debt collection and supply chain management on which 13 percent sales tax is being levied.

Income tax collection targets have been increased, quite ambitiously so. Agriculture income tax collection stands at Rs393m and the target has been increased to Rs1bn for the next financial year. It seems difficult that this target will be met unless the tax collection methods are decisively improved.