23 June 2014

Balochistan Budget: A Set of Empty Promises

Courtesy: The Balochistan Point


The budget presented by Balochistan government is nothing but a set of empty promises. Ruling coalition of Balochistan consisting of National Party (NP), Pashtunkhaw Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) has badly failed in every sphere of governance. The current budget is just a traditional budget that makes high claims but at the end of the year there will be no change in the lives of people of Balochistan.

Presently, Balochistan is badly in need of development projects to uplift the living standards of the people. In such a situation the government should have reduced the non-development expenditures. However, the government has increased non-development budget from 154 billion to 164 billion. Development budget has been increased by only 6 billion and it’s 50 billion. Balochistan gets over 170 billion from federal dividable pool after 7th NFC award. People normally believe that this huge amount goes to politicians in lieu of development. Contrary to popular belief, 77% of income received from federal government is consumed by the bureaucracy and other non-development expenditures. This is a huge travesty of justice with deprived people of Balochistan.

Moreover, One can argue that if 50 billion allocated for development funds, is used appropriately, can change the outlook of Balochistan. The problem is that not all the allocated funds are consumed due to petty politics and incompetence of Chief Minister and his coalition partners. According to a well placed source, during last year, only 2 billion out of 44 billion allocated for development funds were used. The unused funds are returned back to federal government as a rule. So, what’s the guarantee that in the next fiscal year the proposed 50 billion will be spent on development projects?

Likewise, Budget of 2013-14 was the first budget presented by the current government. That budget promised 4000 jobs during the year. That proved to be an empty promise because not even 100 vacancies were fulfilled during that period. In fact, 674 vacancies for college lecturers were cancelled by government due to ethnic bias of one of the coalition parties. Based on the track record, one finds it hard to believe the promise of the government that 3925 jobs will be provided in next fiscal year.

Dr. Malik led government of Balochistan never fails to boast about their merit based governance. In reality they are as far from merit as was the corrupt government of Nawab Raisani. The development funds of all opposition members of provincial assembly were blocked by this so-called merit-oriented government. In constituencies of opposition members, politicians belonging from ruling coalition decide where the funds should be spent. That is typical example of power politics that politicians in Pakistan do and as a result common people suffer. Another example of good governance of Balochistan government is appointment of Arsalan Iftikhar as vice-Chairman of Board of Investment. Arsalan Iftikhar, son of former chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, was blamed for receiving bribe from Malik Riaz. There is substantial proof to backup the allegations made against Arsalan Iftikhar. Only Dr. Malik, his coalition partners and their apologists would defend the appointment of a corrupt person such as Arsalan Iftikhar.

The charge sheet against this government is too long but if one restricts it to budget only even then there is a lot to discuss. Local body’s elections were held in Balochistan on 7th December last year. Ruling coalition dominated the polls by making full use of government machinery. Still opposition parties managed to win substantial number of seats all over Balochistan. Government willingly delayed the transfer of power to Local bodies so that they don’t get a share in development budget of 2013-14. The irony is that even provincial government failed to spend the development funds. If power was transferred to local bodies on time then development funds would not have been wasted. The process of transfer of power is incomplete till to date and common people failed to get the benefit of electing their local body representatives in the year 2013-14.

Just like last year, this year’s budget will end up as a set of empty promises. It’s less likely that all the allocated funds will be utilized due to incompetence and petty politics of current government. The lives of people will not be changed notwithstanding 100s of billion rupees received by provincial government. Current government of Balochistan is just a good looking version of last government. Anyways, what can one expect from government that has come into power after as an outcome of one of the most rigged election in history of Pakistan. As long as this government is in power, nothing will change on ground for people of Balochistan. That’s inconvenient but one has to swallow it as bitter reality.

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