Pakistan

KARACHI: Amid commotion in the House, the PPP-led government yesterday adopted the Sindh Finance Bill 2016 by majority to approve the Rs. 869.1 billion provincial budget for financial year 2016-17.

The Sindh Assembly, which had been in session for 11 days since June 11, was prorogued after the passage of the budget upon the orders of Governor Ishratul Ibad Khan, which were read out by Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani amid slogans of ‘Go corruption go’ by furious MQM lawmakers.

They gathered in front of the speaker’s rostrum to voice protest against deputy speaker Syeda Shehla Raza’s treatment of cut motions filed by opposition members. They even tore up copies of the finance bill and threw them in the air, Dawn News reported.

Despite the speaker’s intervention, the MQM lawmakers held that the government was using its majority vote to suppress their views on the budget.

Leader of the Opposition Khwaja Izharul Hassan said the deputy speaker had misused his authority by depriving them of their democratic right to discuss cut motions against demands for grants.

“She guillotined our cut motions by using brute majority and clubbing together all demands for grants from four to 149,” he said during his speech.

Provincial finance minister Syed Murad Ali Shah laid the schedule of authorized expenditure for 2016-17, which was approved by the majority following consideration of the finance bill, which was taken up clause by clause and adopted amid uproar by the opposition.

The minister maintained that the budget was by and large tax free. Through the bill some 20 years old rates on services had been revised and high-end consumers had been brought into the tax net, he told the House.

 

The opposition lawmakers, however, criticized the government’s budget policy and pointed out there was no improvement in the law and order situation and infrastructure despite huge spending.

The cut motions on 42 demands for grants on supplementary expenditure were 114 against the amount of Rs 44.17 billion and over 720 cut motions were submitted against 149 demands for grants in 2016-17.

Most of the cut motions demanded a cut in the allocation of funds for the Chief Minister’s House and their reallocation to schemes for the benefit of common people.

Opposition lawmakers were also critical of huge spending on the purchase of costly cars for ministers while people were deprived of clean drinking water and health facilities.

The finance minister rejected the cut motions and defended the demands for grants saying that most of the cut motions related to salaries and allowances or the purchase of a helicopter for the chief minister and entertainment allowance which was for spending on gifts presented to foreign dignataries.