DESPITE difficult circumstances, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah deserves appreciation for presenting a pro-poor and tax-free budget for the financial year 2022-23 with a total outlay of Rs 1.71 trillion.
Apart from the measures aimed at promoting welfare of the disadvantaged segments of the society and liberal incentives and relief for the government employees, the new budget envisages an allocation of Rs 332.165 billion for annual development programme as against Rs 222.5 billion during the outgoing year, which would help stimulate economic activities and growth.
It also has allocations worth Rs 26.850 billion for a ‘pro-poor, social protection and economic sustainability package’.
This is, in fact, in line with the overall strategy of the PPP’s provincial government that has been presenting people-friendly budgets during the last several years and as a result the common man and the government servants in Sindh are enjoying more facilities, benefits and relief as compared to those in other provinces and also the Federal Government.
PPP has once again lived up to its reputation as pro-employees by announcing relief and benefits that have made their salaries and perks more attractive than those of the Federal Government and other provinces.
The Chief Minister announced introduction of Revised Basic Pay Scales 2022 for provincial employees merging Adhoc Relief Allowances 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021 at the rates admissible to employees of the Federal Government besides grant of Adhoc Relief Allowance at the rate of 15 per cent of basic pay scales to government servants from 01 July 2022.
Disparity Allowance at the rate of 33 per cent of basic pay will be paid to civil servants in BPS-1 to 16 and at the rate of 30 per cent to civil servants in BPS-17 and above in lieu of the differential rate of Ad-hoc Relief Allowances 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021, which are being abolished from July, 2022.
Unlike the Federal Government, which initially dropped hints at giving a modest increase in pensions but later retracted, the Sindh Government has announced an increase of 5% in pensions in addition to 22.5% increase in net pension as compared to pensioners of the Federal Government till February 2022.
Murad Ali Shah won the hearts of the government employees by declaring that the Sindh Government would match any increase if granted by any other Provincial Government in the salaries and pensions of their employees.
Police constables perform an arduous task but they were placed in BS-5 and, therefore, the decision of the Sindh Government to upgrade them to Scale-7 is commendable as this would help motivate them to work with more commitment and devotion.
Another landmark decision of the province is to keep the education sector at the top priority by allocating Rs 326.80 billion, which forms more than 25 per cent of the total budget outlay.
The decision to establish either a full-fledged university or a campus of a recognised public university in at least seven districts, one each in Korangi, Karachi West, Keamari, Malir, Tando M Khan, Tando Allah Yar, and Sujawal would go a long way in affording opportunities to people to get higher education.
Similarly, the health sector has also been given priority with budgetary allocation at Rs230.30 billion, which forms more than 19 per cent of the total budget outlay.
It is also commendable that for the second consecutive year, Sindh has levied no new tax and in fact, reduced rates of some taxes to benefit different segments of the society.
In line with this policy, cotton fee, professional tax, entertainment duty and infrastructure development cess for export-oriented units are proposed to be waived off.
Provision of wheat flour at reduced rates assumes greater significance in the backdrop of back-breaking inflation and, therefore, the provincial government has done well by announcing to provide a subsidy of Rs23.324 billion on wheat for common people.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is a model budget for other governments to emulate as it takes care of the woes and needs of vulnerable sections of the society.
No doubt, the Federal Government is under intense pressure from the IMF but still it can find ways and means to help mitigate sufferings of the fixed income groups as has been done by the Sindh Government.