Cash-strapped Pakistan government squanders money on image-building

Islamabad [Pakistan], May 19 (ANI):

The current fiscal year is nearing its end with extraordinarily tight fiscal positions and the austerity policy of the PDM government in Pakistan, but discretionary spending on development schemes for constituencies of parliamentarians of the coalition partners and publicity continues to grow, Dawn reported.
The Cabinet’s Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) increased allocations for parliamentarians’ constituencies under the so-called Sustainable Development Goals Achievement Programme (SDGs-AP) by (PKR) 1 billion to (PKR) 91 billion when it approved nine supplementary grants totalling (PKR) 11 billion on Tuesday. The conference, presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, was informed that the government has earmarked (PKR) 70 billion in the budget 2022-23 for ‘running community-based SAP’ to accomplish the SDGs while addressing the country’s urban-rural social development restrictions, according to Dawn.
In October last year, the funds for the scheme were increased by (PKR) 17 billion to (PKR) 87 billion to ensure that all 174 members of the National Assembly belonging to the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) receive (PKR) 500 million in small schemes — sewage lines, gas, water and electricity connections, and street repair and maintenance — in the name of SDGs.
As a result, the Ministry of Planning, according to reports, relinquished (PKR) 17 billion from monies previously earmarked in the budget for places such as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir including Gilgit-Baltistan and parts of the provinces.
The funds were subsequently enhanced by (PKR) 3 billion more to (PKR) 90 billion “which has already been released/transferred to the respective ministries, divisions and provincial government under the Demand No. 92-IB-0600-Development Expenditure of the Cabinet Division,” the ECC was told on Tuesday, as per a report published in Dawn.
The lion’s share of the already disbursed money, (PKR) 46.125 billion, went to Punjab, followed by (PKR) 29.155 billion to Sindh and (PKR) 7.73 billion and (PKR) 6.99 billion to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, respectively.
Members recommend development proposals, which are subsequently approved by a steering committee led by the planning minister – a mechanism put in place a few years ago to avoid a Supreme Court ruling.
The ECC also authorised two supplemental grants of (PKR) 5.57 billion and (PKR) 1.146 billion to the Ministry of Commerce, representing a 50 per cent share of the costs of urea fertiliser imports and exchange rate differentials to Pakistan’s trade missions abroad, respectively, as per Dawn.
The meeting also approved two supplementary grants of (PKR) 1.666 billion and (PKR) 100 million to the National Highway Authority (NHA) to cover expenses incurred on the restoration of roads damaged during the floods of 2022 in KP, GB, Balochistan, and Sindh, as well as the construction of roads from Dalbandin to Ziarat Balanosh (77 kilometres).
The ECC also granted (PKR) 17.3 million for the Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission to cover employee-related expenses, and (PKR) 922 million for the Power Division to complete the development project “Construction of 2nd Circuit Stringing from Jiwani to Gwadar.”
The committee also authorised a grant of (PKR) 50 million to the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety for SOS Children’s Villages in Pakistan and a grant of (PKR) 550 million to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for federal government publicity/awareness initiatives in 2022-23, Dawn reported. (ANI)

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