PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra on Friday refused to share details of district development fund allocation with the provincial assembly, insisting it is not possible for the department to provide the information sought.
Responding to a question in the chamber, the minister also refused to provide details on the development funds allocated to members of the National Assembly and the Senate, saying that the funds were released for projects and not for personalities.
Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal member Inayatullah Khan had asked for a breakdown of funds allocated to districts, including tribal ones, for development projects.
The MPA, through a follow-up question, also asked the government to share details of the funds granted to MPs and Senators for development projects in their respective constituencies.
Tells the PA that ‘extended finance ministry mechanism does not review details of these allocations’
He complained that the ministry, in a written response, had provided a sectoral allocation of funds for development projects, which he said was a breach of the privilege of the august house.
In a supplementary question, Awami National Party MPA Bahadur Khan complained that a ruling party MP in Upper Dir district had received Rs 700 million for development projects, but he (Mr Bahadur) did not receive a single penny for this purpose.
The finance minister said his department had “its own extensive mechanism, which does not go into the details of development fund allocations by district”.
The opposition asked Vice-President Mahmood Jan, who was chairing the session, to refer the matter to the competent committee, but the minister objected. The President put the question to a vote which suffered a defeat.
MMA MP Rehana Ismail said the province’s debt stood at 97 billion rupees before Pakistan’s Tehreek-i-Insaf formed the provincial government.
She said the current government had borrowed 598.7 billion rupees from foreign multilateral donors over the past four years.
The finance minister said the provincial government has set up the Debt Management Unit, which includes professionals and oversees debt-related issues.
He said KP’s domestic debt was zero, with most loans being highly concessional with a “30-40 year amortized repayment profile with a 5-10 year grace period”.
Jhagra said the ministry would soon issue a new bulletin regarding the province’s debt.
He said development megaprojects cannot be executed without large capital outlays. The minister said the positive aspect of foreign funded projects like Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit is job creation.
Nighat Yasmin Orakzai, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party, called on the government to increase the salary of the Ombudsman for Harassment of Women in the Workplace as well as MPAs.
She said the incumbent mediator received a salary of 200,000 rupees every month which was not enough, while the mediators in Sindh and Punjab received more than 1.4 million rupees per month.
Minister Jhagra said the recommendations of the special committee on increasing the salary package for MPAs are awaiting the Chief Minister’s approval to be implemented.
Additionally, the unplanned and excessive power outages in Peshawar and other parts of the province echoed the assembly, with the provincial government blaming the federal government for causing major blackouts.
On a point of order, PTI member Fazal Elahi complained that the Peshawar Electric Supply Company had started load shedding for 12 to 18 hours a day in semi-urban and rural areas of Peshawar. He warned that if the Pesco did not improve the power supply and reduce load shedding by 10 a.m. on Saturday, people would occupy four network stations.
The finance minister agreed with his colleague’s view and said that the KP was facing a power shortage of 1400 MW.
He said Punjab had almost been exempt from load shedding, with KP and Balochistan bearing the brunt.
Mr Jhagra said the federal government had increased the electricity tariff three times in one month. He alleged that the federal government was inducting like-minded people onto the boards of electric utility companies.
During the session, the government introduced the Agricultural Research Institute Reforms Bill, the Food Fortification Bill, the Civil Servants (Amendment) Bill, the Medical Relief Endowment Fund (Repeal) Act and Medical Education Institutions Reforms (Amendment) Bill. The President then adjourned the meeting until May 30.
Posted in Dawn, May 14, 2022