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Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Friday presented Rs 1.218 trillion budget, higher by 27 percent as compared to last fiscal, at provincial legislature. Due to noisy protest and shouts of lies, lies by opposition legislators, the Chief Minister had to struggle to continue his budget speech.

With placards in hands, opposition members surrounded Murad Shah who also holds the portfolio of the Sindh Finance Minister.

The chief minister also announced to increase the Sindh government employees salaries by 15 percent, as he slammed the federal government for a low annual increment to the civil servants.

He said that the budget estimates of total receipts for the next fiscal year are Rs 1.218 trillion, which is 29 percent higher than the revised Rs 940.7 billion in the current financial year and some 8 percent higher than actual budget estimates Rs 1.124 trillion of this fiscal year. Receipts from the federal government on account of revenue assignment, straight transfers and grants are estimated at Rs 835.375 billion that is 69 percent of the total provincial revenues. The provincial receipts are estimated Rs 288.709 billion, including Rs 121.5 billion are tax receipts, excluding services tax, Rs 145 billion of sales tax on services and Rs 22.19 billion are provincial non-tax receipts.

Similarly, current capital receipts are estimated Rs 11.205 billion, including Local Repayments/Loans of Rs 5 billion, International Development Association (WB) Rs 1.205 billion and Bank Borrowing Rs 5 billion. Other receipts are Rs 56.037 billion, including Rs 51.148 billion of Foreign Project Assistance and Rs 4.89 billion of federal grant. Carryover cash balance is estimated at Rs 5 billion.

Expenditure outlay of the budget is estimated at Rs 1.218 trillion for next fiscal year as against revised budgetary estimate of Rs 956.77 trillion of the current fiscal year, showing an increase of 27 percent. The expenditures include the current revenue spending of Rs 870.217 billion and current capital expenditure of Rs 63.64 billion.

Development expenditure for the financial year 2019-20 are estimated at Rs 284.037 billion as against actual budget estimates of Rs 344 billion of this year and revised budgeted amount of Rs 174 billion.

Sindh government also cut down the development spending worth Rs 172.941 billion for the current fiscal year due to poor receipts.

The detailed analysis of 2019-20 budget revealed that Rs 208 billion are proposed for provincial Annual Development Program (ADP), Rs 51.148 billion under Foreign Project Assistance, Rs 4.88 billion of federal grant and Rs 20 billion of district ADP.

Murad said that the development portfolio for the next financial year is Rs 283.5 billion, including Rs 228 billion on account of the Provincial and District ADP. "The total receipts of the province for the financial year 2019-20 are estimated at Rs 1.218 trillion against an estimated expenditure of Rs 1.218 trillion. As the Federal Transfers, the province is expected to receive Rs 835.375 billion," he said.

On the current revenue side, the expenditure budget is estimated at Rs 870.217 billion which shows an increase of 12.5 percent over the current year allocation of Rs 773.237 billion. The 12 percent increase in expenditure is primarily in the employee related expenses. Sindh's revenue targets are increased from Rs 243.082 billion to Rs 355.4 billion for the next financial year, he said.

Agriculture Sector: Murad said that the government earmarked Rs 8.4 billion for the next fiscal year, including Rs 4.7 billion of Foreign Assistance to carry out development projects. They are: Lining of 1850 watercourses through the Sindh Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Enhancement Project (SIAPEP), subsidising 400 thrashers, 400 rotavators, 400 zero tillage, 500 auto loaders, 20,000 power sprayers and 500 tractor trolleys for the growers.

The government will also provide 200,000 metres on-farm drainage structures, 125,000 hectares land levelling precision equipment and high tunnel farming for 150 acres and 870 farmers for the drip irrigation.

Education: The allocation for school education has been increased in non-development budget from Rs 170.832 billion in 2018-19 to Rs 178.618 billion in the next financial year 2019-20. On- development side, Rs 15.15 billion are allocated under ADP 2019-20.

Allocation of Rs 9.597 billion has been made for Sindh Education Foundation for 2019-20. Similarly, an allocation of Rs 18.094 billion has been made for college education in its non- development budget for the next fiscal year. Development funds have been increased to Rs 4 billion under the ADP 2019-20. The allocation for Universities and Boards Department has been scaled up under non-development budget to Rs 10.585 billion for the financial year 2019-20.

Health: The current revenue expenditure of Health Department, excluding medical education has been significantly increased by 19 percent from Rs 96.8 billion in CFY 2018-19 to Rs 114.4 billion in FY 2019-20. Under the ADP 2019-20, the health sector allocation will remain Rs 13.50 billion like the outgoing year had.

The Sindh government has allocated Rs 12.3 billion for Social Protection and Poverty Reduction Program in the development budget of 2019-20. Under this, there will be focus on 3 major interventions (i) Peoples Poverty Reduction Program (PPRP), (ii) Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) and (iii) Social Protection. The ongoing umbrella program of Accelerated Action Plan (AAP) for improving nutrition and containing malnourishment and stunting will be a cross-cutting intervention across the three major interventions.

Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS): The Sindh government prepared a Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) with technical assistance of the European Union (EU); and this was approved by Sindh Cabinet in October 2019. The strategy has been developed for poverty alleviation in the rural and urban areas of the Province. The PRS will capitalise on the social capital created by PPRP and it will go further step towards poverty reduction through "development of Rural Growth Centres" for stimulating economic activities. It plans to address Urban Poverty through income generation activities.

Murad Shah said it is a complex issue and requires long-term, persistent efforts. He said that the government is highly sensitive to the issue and they wish to address this seriously. In this context; a ten-year multi-sectoral Accelerated Action Plan (AAP) for Reduction of Stunting and Malnutrition stands approved. AAP aims at achieving the goal of reducing stunting from 48 percent to 30 percent by 2021 and then 15 percent by 2026. It is under implementation through the relevant Departments such as Health, Population Welfare, Local Government, Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, etc.

Water: The government has allocated Rs 35.90 billion under ADP 2019-20. It is slightly lower than last year but it constitutes sizeable share of ADP. Plan has it that of the 372 schemes, at least 218 would be completed.

Road Sector: A total allocation for the Works and Services and Local Government Department is Rs 26. 86 billion and they have 431 schemes in hand. It is estimated that these departments will be able to complete 192 schemes. ADB-assisted Sindh Provincial Road Improvement Project (328 kilometres at a cost of Rs 22.75 billion) which includes: Thull to Kandhkot road of 44km, Sheranpur to Ratodero 36km, Sanghar to Mirpurkhas via Sindhri 63km, Tando Muhammad Khan to Badin 66km, Digri to Naukot 55km, Khaiber to Sanghar via Tando Adam 64km and Rehabilitation of Dual Carriageway from Steel Mill to Ghaghar Phatak 13km.

Irrigation: The non-development budget allocation for irrigation sector is increased from Rs 22.744 billion in 2018-19 to Rs 23.070 billion in the financial year 2019-20.

Livestock and Fisheries: The government under ADP 2019-20 allocates Rs 2 billion for this sector to complete 20 schemes.

Investment Sector: The Sindh government earmarked Rs 442 million for Financial Support for Doubling Rice Export from Sindh, Rs 55 million for financial support for women entrepreneurship, artisans and farmers and Rs 240 million for cotton sector value addition estate to increase production in agriculture and bring more agri-tech through private investors.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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