Opposition legislators in the Sindh Assembly on Monday questioned what they termed sheer incompetence, wasteful and corrupt spending and ill-advised priorities of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led Sindh government that had continued unabated, according to them, during the ongoing coronavirus crisis in the province.
They were taking part in the general discussion in the house on the newly presented Sindh budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2020-21 on the second day of the budget debate.
Treasury lawmakers belonging to the PPP defended the new budget of the Sindh government, saying that the provincial authorities had taken care of the developmental and welfare needs of the people of Sindh as much as they could, given the situation of limited fiscal resources available to them due to the federal governments’ actions.
The treasury MPAs termed the increase in salaries and pension of the employees of the Sindh government a major achievement in the new provincial budget despite highly unsatisfactory fiscal situation of the province.
They said the federal government had failed to fulfil its commitments to implementing a special development package for Karachi. The opposition MPAs were, however, of the viewpoint that the new provincial budget was against the expectations of the people as Sindh could not make progress during the continuous rule of the PPP in the province for 12 years, owing to the menacing problem of corruption in the affairs of governance.
Taking part in the general discussion, opposition legislator of the Grand Democratic Alliance Arif Mustafa Jatoi said the Sindh government lacked the competence to overcome the coronavirus crisis as it had earlier failed to eliminate the polio disease.
He stated that the Sindh government had been fond of imposing a lockdown in the province but the hospitals in the province managed by it lacked the facility of ventilators. Hundreds of lives could have been saved in the province, had ventilators been available in the government-run hospitals, Jatoi maintained.
He said that nobody knew the identity of people who had been given food rations by the Sindh government during the lockdown as people should know the names and CNIC numbers of the recipients of the government’s ration drive.
The GDA MPA added that the Sindh government during the last 12 years had failed to develop the Gorakh Hill Station in the province as if huts of gold were being constructed there.
Another GDA lawmaker Nusrat Seher Abbasi alleged that the current rulers of the province were corrupt who had caused massive damage to the interests of the people of Sindh.
She remarked that the only merit possessed by the incumbent Sindh health minister was that she was the sister of former president Asif Ali Zardari, who is the PPP co-chairman. Nusrat said the people of Sindh had to face the adverse consequences of the health minister’s incompetence just because she was a family member of the PPP chiefs.
She said poor women in Sindh were not provided any facility at the time of birth, due to which a tragic incident had taken place in Kandhkot where a woman gave birth to her child on a pile of garbage.
In contrast, she said the wives of rulers of Sindh went abroad for delivery so that their offspring could secure the nationality of foreign countries.
Nusrat went on to say that she would continue to expose the corrupt practices and misdeeds of the Sindh government without caring for the dire consequences she could face outside the assembly hall as her opposition to the government could even endanger her life.
Rabia Khatoon, an MPA of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), said the Sindh government in the new budget had once more ignored the municipal agencies of the urban areas of the province.
She opined that the PPP’s rule in the province would have been a lot better, had the Sindh government duly devolved the powers of governance to the local governments.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf legislator Bilal Ghaffar said the Sindh chief minister should explain to the house as in what manner his government would overcome the massive shortfall in the provincial revenue collection.
He said that in the first nine months of the outgoing fiscal year, the Sindh government had been able to meet merely 18 per cent of the revenue target as its shortfall stood at Rs104 billion.
MQM-P MPA Nadeem Ahmed Siddiqui said the Sindh government was used to get its share from the federal fiscal resources in accordance with the 18th Constitutional Amendment but the provincial authorities did not pass on these resources to the municipal agencies in Sindh for effective local governance.
He said that apart from the concerned residents of the urban areas of the province, the dwellers of the rural Sindh also had not got any benefit from the provincial budget.
Pakistan Peoples Party lawmaker Riaz Hussain Shah Sheerazi opposed the plan of the federal government to build a barrage in lower parts of the province, saying that the provincial government had not been taken on board by the Centre regarding the plan.
He said wind power projects had been generating electricity in his native town of Thatta and they should provide free-of-charge electricity to the poor residents of nearby villages as per their obligations under the principles of corporate social responsibility.
He demanded that the Sindh government establish a medical college in Thatta. He also pointed out that the regularisation of over 700 villages in Thatta had yet to be carried out by the provincial government.
Another treasury MPA Qasim Siraj Soomro demanded that the provincial government announce special water supply schemes for the desert areas of the province from Sukkur to Tharparkar. He said innovative and modern methods should be used to introduce farming in Thar.
PTI legislator Sanjay Gangwani said the government-run hospitals at the district level should be upgraded. He added that people in the province were without any emergency ambulance service. He lamented that the Chandka Hospital Larkana was without the facility of an X-ray machine.
Earlier, at the outset of the proceedings of the house, the leader of the opposition, PTI’s Firdous Shamim Naqvi, said that lawmakers who had been participating in the proceedings of the assembly virtually through a video-conferencing system were not following the decorum of the assembly session.
However, Speaker Agha Siraj Khan Durrani remarked that many of such legislators participating via video-conferencing facility had been suffering from the coronavirus infection, due to which he could not order them to use a chair while attending the assembly session from their homes.