Rs 34b supplementary budget for 2003-04: Opposition urges govt to cut cabinet and curb spending
* Govt says most supplementary spending on welfare projects
* Punjab asks federal govt for royalties on Ghazi Barotha
By Qamar Jabbar
LAHORE: The opposition criticised the Punjab government for its “lavish spending” and urged it to cut the size of its cabinet and reduce non-development spending in the Punjab Assembly during discussions on the 2003-04 supplementary budget on Tuesday.
The opposition said the supplementary budget should be scrutinised by the public accounts committee of the house so unnecessary expenditure could be recovered.
Punjab Finance Minister Sardar Hussain Dareshak, winding up the debate, said of the Rs 34 billion supplementary budget, Rs 12 billion had been spent on financing the Annual Development Programme, Rs 12 billion on buying wheat, Rs 3 billion each on roads and the police department, Rs 1.3 billion on irrigation schemes, Rs 338 million on water supply projects, Rs 400 million on industry and Rs 350 million had been spent on healthcare.
He said the chief minister had asked the federal government to give the Punjab a royalty of Rs 3 billion on the Ghazi Barotha Hydropower station. He said if the NWFP could get royalties for the Tarbela Dam, the Punjab should get royalties for Ghazi Barotha. He said the government had decided to legislate to improve the Punjab Think Tank.
Punjab Law Minister Muhammad Basharaf Raja said an extra Rs 9 million had been spent on security for the president and prime minister because of the terrorist threat in the province. He said the government had collected Rs 9 billion more in taxes than expected. The government also spent millions of rupees on projects initiated by the governments of Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. The Punjab House Murree was started in 1990, but completed by the present government, he said.
Punjab Excise and Taxation Minister Dr Muhammad Shafique said most of the supplementary budget was spent on welfare projects and to improve law and order. He said government figures had not spent any money on renovating their own houses, unlike the previous rulers who had used the national exchequer to renovate their “palaces” in Larkana and Raiwind. The government also did not impose new taxes to meet supplementary spending like previous rulers, he added.
Deputy Opposition Leader Rana Sanaullah Khan, opening the debate, accused the government of spending extra on itself while the poor suffered from increasing inflation, unemployment and other socio economic problems.
He said the renovation of Punjab House in Rawalpindi and purchase of crockery for Chief Minister’s House were lavish expenditures. The spending of Rs 70 million on the security of VIPs was “another joke” because terrorist were “moving freely and killing people”, he said. He said Rs 214 million had been spent on a helicopter, Rs 416 million on a Cessna aircraft and Rs 50 million on bullet-proof cars for the president and the prime minister.
Opposition members Rana Aftab Ahmad Khan, Arshad Mehmood Baggu, Rana Shafqat Abbasi, Mujahid Ali Shah, Dr Wasim, Sheikh Ejaz and Tanveer Ashraf also criticised the government’s expenditure of Rs 5.40 million and Rs 1.9 million on the repair of official vehicles and gifts for dignitaries. They said this money was actually spent on luxuries but government members had put them under vague categories to cover themselves. They said if the government had made the annual budget correctly, there would be no need for supplementary spending. They urged the government to reduce its non-development expenditure to overcome the budget deficit.