Amid strong protest by the whistle-blowing members of three major opposition parties, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, who also holds the portfolio for provincial finance minister, presented a Rs1,477.9 billion tax-free budget with a development outlay of Rs329 billion.
Health, education, agriculture, irrigation, labour, small and medium enterprises, women development and social protection for the poor are the main areas the PPP government appears to be focusing on through enhanced allocations in the budget.
In a positive development, the provincial government proposed to increase salaries of government employees by 20 percent, while it has also been proposed to increase the minimum wages of workers to Rs 25,000. The government has also proposed a considerably large sum of Rs30.9bn for its pro-poor social protection
There is no doubt that the uncertainties caused by COVID-19 must have affected spending priorities. However, that does not justify the Sindh government’s inability to fully utilise whatever money it had in its coffers. It is especially scandalous because the socioeconomic infrastructure in Karachi is collapsing with every day.
The Sindh government in the previous budget allocated funds for the projects of Brown Line, Orange Line, Red Line and Blue Line to solve the transport problems in the city but no project could be started. As for the federal government, two projects approved during the tenure of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were completed in the last fiscal year, but the Green Line project, which started in 2016, is still not completed.
The K4 project for water supply to Karachi could not be completed despite spending Rs 17 billion, while the Karachi Sewage Treatment Project, also known as Project S3, is also under construction for the past seven years.
Apparently, the spending priorities of the Sindh government are commendable. But the question is will the government be able to deliver these promises to the people? There is a need at this time to provide relief to the citizens by solving real problems instead of just announcing statistics.