KARACHI - In a rare hooliganism-free environment budget laying speech during the current tenure, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, who also holds Finance portfolio, on Saturday presented Rs. 2.24 trillion ‘tax free’ budget for the financial year 2023-24 with a deficit of Rs. 37.79 billion.
Unlike the previous years, opposition parties including Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Grand Democratic Alliance, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal calmly listened to the CM’s speech with major opposition party in the Sindh Assembly Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf continued its absence as they were not making to the assembly after 9th May’s violent incidence. The development outlay was estimated Rs. 700.1 billion, which mainly aimed at rehabilitation of flood-affected people.
The total revenue receipts of the provincial government had been estimated at Rs. 2,209.785 billion, representing an increase of 31.56 percent from the concluding financial year 2022-2023, against the estimated expenditures of Rs 2,247.581 billion, representing a shortfall or deficit of Rs. 37.795 billion.
The CM—who was presenting his 12th budget as Finance Minister and seventh as the chief minister holding the Finance portfolio, also announced to increase the minimum wage in the province from Rs. 25000 to 35,500. He also announced up to 35 per cent salary increase for provincial government employees and 17.5 per cent raise in the pension. The employees from BPS-1 to 16 would get 35 per cent raise while BPS-17 and above employees to get 30 per cent increase. The other adhoc relief would be the same as had been announced by the federal government. Murad in his speech also vowed to provide social protection to the poor people of the province.
The estimated Total Receipts of the province include three revenue receipts: Current Revenue Receipts estimated at Rs. 1,823.126 billion, Current Capital Receipts estimated at Rs. 36.133 billion, and Other Receipts estimated at Rs. 295.53 billion. In addition to the revenue receipts, Carryover Cash Balance was estimated to be Rs. 45 billion and the net balance of the Public Accounts of the Province was estimated to be Rs. 10 billion, with Rs. 5,585.66 billion in Receipts and Rs. 5,575.66 billion in disbursements, in the Financial Year 2023-24.
Current Revenue Receipts include a total of Rs. 1,353.2 billion Federal Transfers in the form of Revenue Assignment estimated at Rs. 1,225 billion, Straight Transfers estimated at Rs. 64.42 billion, and Grants to offset losses of the abolition of OZT estimated at Rs. 33.74 billion. In addition, the head of Revenue Receipts includes estimated Provincial Tax Receipts of Rs. 202.9 billion, Provincial Sales Tax on Services of Rs. 235 billion, and Provincial Non-Tax Receipts of Rs. 32 billion.
Current Capital Receipts include Local Repayments/Loans estimated to be Rs. 6.133 billion and Bank Borrowing estimated to be Rs. 30 billion. Other Receipts include Foreign Project Assistance (FPA) budgeted at Rs. 266.7 billion, Other Federal Grants budgeted at Rs. 22.9 billion, and Foreign Grants budgeted at Rs. 5.92 billion.
The estimated expenditure of Rs. 2,247.58 billion includes Current Revenue Expenditure of Rs. 1,411.2 billion, Current Capital Expenditure of Rs. 136.26 billion, and Development Expenditure Rs. 700.1 billion. The latter includes Provincial ADP excluding FPA of Rs. 380.5 billion, Foreign Project Assistance of Rs. 266.7 billion, Other Federal Grants of Rs. 22.91 billion, and District ADP of Rs. 30 billion.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah while presenting the annual budget for the next financial year 2023-24 said that education is most essential investment and acknowledged worldwide as the most powerful agent of change. He said, ‘We aim at improving access to equitable, inclusive and quality education for all.’ He said that the provincial government has earmarked an amount of Rs312.245 billion for education sector in budget estimates 2023-24, presenting a 7 percent increase over last year’s budget estimates Rs292.47 billion.
The School Education budget had been enhanced by 13.1 percent to Rs. 267.6 billion, health budget increased to Rs.227.8 billion, denoting a 10.1 percent growth. Murad said that the Sindh government had been successful in attracting and securing Chinese grants of Rs. 7,659 million for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of 646 schools. Under the Flood Restoration Program and Sindh Development Through Enhanced Education Program (DEEP), 112 damaged schools would be rehabilitated on resilient and environmentally friendly fabricated structures in five districts for Rs. 3,011 million.
The CM said that the budget estimates 2023-24 for health services had been proposed to be Rs.214.547 billion, for non-development activities against the budget estimates of Rs.196.454 billion for financial year 2022-23. He said, ‘We have spent more than Rs233 billion in CFY 2022-23 to provide state-of-the-art healthcare infrastructure and easily accessible health facilities to general public and running programs for prevention and control of diseases.
LAW & ORDER
The chief minister said that Sindh government had carefully prioritized the allocation of funds for Home departmentt at Rs 143.568 billion for the next financial year 2023-24 with a 15 percent increase over last year’s allocation of Rs 124.87 billion.He also announced Rs.15.5 million each to the Prison’s Policy and Management Boards for strategic improvements. Rs. 463.414 million for strengthening the prison department’s technical capabilities.
Murad said that the provincial government was actively supporting all the local councils in Sindh in order to ensure better services delivery. The budget estimates 2023-24 for Grants to Local Bodies had been proposed to be Rs.88.00 billion. He said that the Grant-in-Aid for Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, Sukkur Municipal Corporation, and Larkana Municipal Corporation has been increased from Rs.30 million to Rs.45 million. The Special Grant-in-Aid for Karachi Metropolitan Corporation had been enhanced from Rs.600 million to Rs.650 million.
EMPOWERMENT OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Murad said that according to World Health Organization, 15 percent of the world’s population are persons with disabilities who were found to be socially and economically discriminated segments of the society. He viewed that Sindh government was determined to extend support through imparting vocational education, I.T skills and supplying assistive technology with artificial intelligence applications to empower them to contribute to the developmental process. “To achieve this noble cause, CM announced a provision of Rs 6.1 billion for the year 2023-24 against the budget of Rs 3.4 billion in the current financial year 2022-23,” Murad added.
The CM told the house that the Women Development and Empowerment department budget estimated for the financial year 2023-24 had been proposed at Rs 705.983 million against last year’s allocation of Rs 644.125 million. He said that a provision of Rs.500 million had been kept for the Benazir Women Agricultural Workers Program. This program will improve the agricultural output and living standards of rural women associated with the agricultural field.
The CM also announced an allocation of Rs. 63 billion to ensure a consistent supply of subsidized wheat to mills and affordable wheat flour to the public; and a budgetary provision of Rs. 16.9 billion for the Pro-Poor Social Protection & Economic Sustainability Program.
Transport Budget had witnessed a growth rate of 167.8 percent, rising from Rs. 5 billion to Rs. 13.4 billion. The government was also going to establish modern terminals at Karachi, Thatta, Badin, and Miro Khan in the first phase. The construction of bus terminals at Thatta Raod and Miro Khan is under process. The Green Line BRT project was being implemented at a cost of Rs 2.36 billion. The corridor is 3.88 kilometers in length and will carry 50,000 passengers per day.
The CM said that Red Line BRT will be a State of the Art Third Generation BRT System with a development expenditure of Rs 78.38 billion. The Project is a Zero Subsidy Project and 250 Bio-Hybrid Buses will provide service to more than 350,000 passengers per day. Additionally, we are also spending Rs 2.91 billion to improve the drainage along the Corridor and more than 25,000 trees will be planted in addition to the landscaping works worth PKR 63.4 million along the corridor.
Murad said that Sindh had one of the largest irrigation systems in the country but it faced colossal losses in the last rain and floods which now needed an extra funding in the next financial year. He said that a significant amount of Rs 25.703 billion had been kept in budget estimates 2023-24. It included Rs.900 million for silt clearance, Rs 5 billion for overall repair and maintenance of the system, and Rs.750 million for the Salinity Control and Reclamation Program (SCARP).
He said that Sindh Housing Project had been immediately launched in targeted areas for the rehabilitation of flood-affected people. As of May 2023, the government had received $230 million equivalent to Rs. 64.669 billion under these projects which are being expended on relief and rehabilitation activities.
In addition to the above, other projects that support the people of Sindh in the flood-affected areas include the $500 million Flood Emergency Rehabilitation Project, the $500 million Floods Emergency Housing Reconstruction Project, the $292 million Water, and Agriculture Transformation Project, and the $200 million Strengthening Social Protection Delivery System Project. $200 million Integrated Health and Population Project.
The CM announced a Rs 10.987 billion budget estimate for livestock and fisheries for the next year 2023-24. It includes Rs. 150 million for the newly established Livestock Breeding Services Authority, Rs. 120 million for holding the Sindh Livestock Expo Event, and Rs. 1.88 billion for the implementation of the Accelerated Action Plan in the livestock sector for addressing stunting and malnutrition.
A provision of Rs.2.78 billion has been earmarked in Budget Estimates 2023-24 for non-development expenditure related to Forest and Wildlife against Rs.2.45 billion in 2022-23. It includes Rs.368 million for the conservancy and development of new forest nurseries.
MANGROVES & GREEN JOBS
He said that Sindh government was committed to an unconditional contribution to a global drive for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Murad Shah said that his govt would be able to earn $200-220 million, equivalent to around Rs 63 billion, of carbon credits over the next two decades for its efforts to expand mangrove forests.
THE SINDH SAFE
The chief minister also announced a much-awaited Rs. 10 billion for `The Sindh Safe Cities Project’ (Phase-I), for Karachi with a substantial allocation of Rs. 4.5 billion for the year 2023-24. The new project including the connectivity of Lyari -Gujjar Nala in Central for Rs1.5 billion, the Construction of the Sea Wall and Road from Dolman Mall to China Port, Clifton for Rs1430 million, Construction of a 6-lane Expressway way from the existing Jinnah Bridge along with Lyari Naddi to Hawksbay, including bridge crossing on main Hawkasbay road and a small bridge on navy maritime security jetty area, Keamari for Rs1.8 billion, Construction of a 2+2 lane underpass at Karimabad Distt: Central for Rs1.35 billion, and establishment of Campuses of Public Sector Universities in Districts of Karachi - Korangi, West, Kiamari for Rs4000 million.
NO NEW TAX
Murad was of the view that his government was cognizant of hardship faced by inflation ridden common people. “On the footsteps of previous two years, we have adopted a strategy of rationalizing various tax bases to protect underprivileged segments of society from unnecessary financial burden. With these rationalizations the affluent class will be taxed to generate revenue to provide necessary relief to general public. Some provisions will be simplified and rationalized to reduce the compliance burden, promote the entrepreneurial spirit and provide tax relief to people and businesses,” he added.
ANNUAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME
The Chief Minister announced an Rs410 billion ADP for next financial year 2023-24. The ADP Includes Rs.410 billion Annual Development Program (ADP) which is Rs. 380 billion for Provincial ADP and Rs.30 billion for District ADP. Rs291.727 billion have been allocated for the 3,311 ongoing schemes and Rs.88.273 billion for 1,937 new schemes. The chief minister has allocated 80 percent of development funds for ongoing schemes so that they could be completed. The focus of the development budget for FY 2023-24 is to capitalize on the current portfolio in the aftermath of the flood situation and initiate new projects, particularly in those sectors which cater to the rehabilitation of infrastructure that was damaged during the heavy rains and floods in 2022.