KARACHI   -    The Sindh government on Friday unveiled Rs1.217 trillion zero-deficit budget for the fiscal year 2019-20.

Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, who also holds portfolio of the finance minister, presented the budget in the provincial assembly amid protest by the joint opposition and counterattacks from the treasury.

The budget session started an hour behind the schedule. As soon as the speaker allowed the chief minister to present the budget, members of the opposition bloc consisting of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) gathered in front of the chief minister and raised slogans about Sindh rulers’ incompetence and corrupt practices. They were holding banners demanding due rights and facilities for people of Karachi and other parts of the province.

Members of the treasury also gathered in front of the chief minister to ensure smooth delivery of the budget speech. The two sides came close to a scuffle, but it was averted after intervention of senior leaders from both sides.

Lawmakers of two other opposition parties — Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) —remained seated during the proceedings and refrained from joining opposition’s protest.

15PC INCREASE IN SALARIES, PENSIONS

The chief minister announced in his budget speech 15 percent increase in salaries of government employees as ad hoc relief allowance. Pensioners too got a similar raise for the next fiscal year. The minimum monthly wage was set at Rs17,000 for the next year.

FISCAL POSITION OF 2018-19

In his fiery speech, the chief minister criticised the federal authorities over delay in transfer of Sindh’s share to the province. He said the government had to cut development and operating expenses and go for austerity to overcome financial crunch due to less transfers from the federal authorities.

As per financial statement of the provincial government, receipts of the province, which were estimated to stand at Rs1.12 trillion, were initially revised to Rs940.77 billion due to shortage of transfers.

He said the Sindh government had only received Rs492.135 billion on account of federal transfers so far in 11 months as compared to revised estimates of Rs631.543 billion and it could end up with a shortfall of Rs117.527 billion by this fiscal year’s end on June 31. The budgetary estimate of the federal transfers was at Rs665.058 billion.

The provincial taxation is however able to near its target with Rs240.746 billion estimated collection as compared to the set target of Rs243.082 billion in the ongoing year.

On the other hand, the total expenditure in the province for the ongoing fiscal year was estimated at RsRs956.779 billion as compare to the earlier estimates of Rs1.144 trillion.

The chief minister said that lowering the expenditure due to cuts in operating and development expenses helped him bring the budget deficit to Rs16.002 billion, which was earlier estimated at Rs20.457 billion.

Current revenue expenditure estimates have been revised from Rs773.237 billion to Rs751.751 billion  and the repair & maintenance budget of the departments has been substantially reduced from Rs27 billion to Rs11 billion, he said. He asked the federal authorities to give a chance to the province to collect sales tax on goods after disappointing collection by the Federal Board of Revenue.

“We believe that once devolved, returns from sales tax on goods can be maximized as it has been done in case of sales tax on services,” he said, and added that overall tax receipts in the province have increased from Rs91.37 billion to Rs185.62 billion in last three years that also included increase in sales tax on services collection from Rs33.67 billion to Rs100 billion during the last five years.

BUDGET ESTIMATES FOR 2019-20

The total receipts of the province for the financial year 2019-20 are estimated at Rs1.217 trillion against an estimated expenditure of Rs1.217 trillion. As federal transfers, the province is expected to receive Rs835.375 billion, Rs170.289 billion more from last year’s estimates. Receipts from the Federal Government will account for 74.3 percent of the total receipts.

“Our own provincial receipts are growing steadily and provincial revenue targets have increased from Rs243.082 billion in 2018-19 billion to Rs355.4 billion for financial year 2019-20,” he said.

On the other hand, the current revenue expenditure is estimated at Rs870.217 billion, which shows an increase of 12.5 percent compared to ongoing year’s allocation of Rs773.237 billion, said the chief minister, who added that the increase was due to unavoidable employee related expenses.

The current capital expenditure was estimated at Rs63.643 billion.

ANNUAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME 2019-20

The development portfolio for next financial year is Rs283.5 billion, which includes Rs228 billion on account of provincial and district ADP. Rs51.148 foreign project assistance and Rs4.889 billion federal grants were also included in it.

Last year, the ADP was estimated at Rs343.911 billion, but this was later revised to Rs172.940 billion due shortfalls in receipts. He lashed out at the federal government for including only Rs33.7 billion Sindh schemes — both ongoing and new — in PSDP having an overall allocation of Rs951 billion. “This includes 12 schemes with an amount of Rs4.89 billion to be executed by the Sindh government as compared to Rs15 billion schemes in 2018-19 and Rs27.3 billion in 2017-18,” he said.

EDUCATION

The allocation for school education has been increased from Rs170.832 billion to Rs178.618 billion in the next financial year, 2019-20. Whereas, on development side, Rs15.15 billion have been allocated in ADP 2019-20.

Salient features of the education budget include Education Sector Plan & Roadmap (2019-23) through a consultative process, focusing on additional classrooms to accommodate more students; emphasis on girls education, out of school children and improving quality education under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode with support of the Education Management Organisations (EMOs).

HEALTH

Declaring health the top priority, the chief minister said the current revenue expenditure of health department, excluding medical education, has increased by 19 percent -- from Rs96.8 billion in 2018-19 to Rs114.4 billion in FY 2019-20. He said Rs13.5 billion, same amount as last year, was allocated for development sector of the department.

LAW AND ORDER

Non-development budget allocation for law and order has increased from Rs100.483 billion in 2018-19 to Rs109.788 billion in 2019-20.

SOCIAL PROTECTION AND POVERTY REDUCTION

In the budget, People’s Promise Programme, a programme for poverty reduction as pledged by the PPP chairman in his election campaign, has been unveiled.

The Sindh government has allocated Rs12.3 billion for the Social Protection and Poverty Reduction program in the development budget of 2019-20.

ROAD SECTOR

For the FY 2019-20, the total allocation for the works and services and Local Government Department is Rs26.86 billion and they have 431 schemes in hand. It is estimated that these departments will be able to complete 192 schemes relating to road infrastructure.

ENERGY

Thar coal mining and power projects have added 660 megawatts of electricity to the national grid this year and it will not only start a new era of social development of Sindh and Pakistan but also alleviate the long-standing current account deficit of the country, said the CM. The allocation for energy sector has been increased in non-development budget from Rs23.883 billion in 2018-19 to Rs24.920 billion in 2019-20.