KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister, Murad Ali Shah, presented the provincial budget for the fiscal year 2023-24 during a session of the Sindh Assembly. The budget announcement revealed that Sindh’s budget deficit has exceeded 37.7 billion rupees.
Salary Increase and Minimum Wage Raise
The budget proposal entails a substantial raise in salaries for government employees. Those in grades one to 16 will experience a 35% increase, while employees above grade 17 will receive a 30% salary hike. Furthermore, the Chief Minister announced a 35% increase in the minimum wage in Sindh, setting it at Rs 25,000. Additionally, the pension of government employees will be raised by 17.5%.
Allocation for Flood Rehabilitation and Infrastructure Restoration
Acknowledging the burden caused by natural calamities and floods, the Chief Minister stated that an additional 100 billion rupees were allocated to address the aftermath. As part of the annual development program, 87 billion rupees were dedicated to flood rehabilitation efforts. During the Sindh Donors Conference, the Chief Minister urged investors to contribute to the restoration of infrastructure in the affected areas.
Impact of Floods and Measures Taken
According to reports from the World Bank and other institutions, the floods resulted in extensive damage, including the destruction of 4.4 million acres of agricultural land, severe disruption to 60% of the province’s road network, destruction of 2.36 million houses, displacement of 12.36 million people, and loss of 436,435 cattle worth 117.3 million dollars. The Sindh government implemented timely and proactive measures to assist the flood victims.
Project Allocations and Provincial Expenditures
The budget allocates 147.822 billion rupees for external assistance projects, 12.5 billion rupees for Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) projects, and 253.146 billion rupees for ongoing projects. In terms of provincial expenses, a total of 1765.02 billion rupees have been set aside to cover current revenue, capital, and development expenditures. The revised estimate for current revenue expenditure reflects an 8% increase compared to the previous year’s budget estimates, amounting to 1296.569 billion rupees. However, the cost of debt repayment has risen by 7.65 billion rupees.
Foreign Aid and Federal Transfers
Anticipating an increase in foreign aid due to the flood disaster, the Chief Minister expects an additional 147.822 billion rupees to be allocated. Furthermore, the federal aid for the current fiscal year has risen by 12.5 billion rupees, with 20 billion rupees allocated for the district annual development program. The Chief Minister acknowledged the province’s reliance on federal transfers and provincial revenues, with a significant portion of resources dependent on direct transfers under the National Finance Commission (NFC) sharing formula.
Religious Harmony and Peace Initiatives
To foster religious harmony, the budget reserves 1.52 billion rupees for the future wealth of the Department of Religious Harmony. Additionally, one billion rupees has been allocated as grant-in-aid to the Pakistan Hindu Council. In terms of maintaining peace and law and order, the budget allocates 143 billion rupees, a 15% increase from the previous year, to address security concerns. Funds have also been designated for the expansion of the prisons department’s staff and the enhancement of Sindh Police’s capabilities through the acquisition of military-grade weapons, vehicles, and personnel.
Development Initiatives and Forensic Laboratory
The budget includes the formation of a crowd management unit and an increased rapid response force. These initiatives will be supported by an allocation of 81.48 million rupees. Additionally, 1.57 billion rupees have been set aside to secure the important entry points of the province. Medical payments for police personnel have been allocated 272.78 million rupees, while 360 million rupees have been reserved for police food expenses in the new fiscal year. The establishment of the Sindh Forensic Laboratory, aimed at ensuring timely justice, has been allocated 134.50 million rupees.
Backward Classes Development and Excise and Taxation
The budget prioritizes the development of backward classes and restoration of human rights, with an allocation of 100 million rupees. Furthermore, 87 million rupees have been proposed for the three regional and two Karachi offices of the provincial ombudsman. In the Excise and Taxation sector, the budget allocates 7.108 billion rupees for projects such as vehicle tracking, monitoring, registration, smart cards, and number plates. Security features, registration smart cards, and security feature number plates receive specific allocations within this budget.