PA approves budget, rejects over 550 cut motions
By Habib Khan Ghori
KARACHI: Disappointed by the rejection of as many as 552 cut motions aimed at restraining the government from continuing with its “extreme extravagance of public money”, the opposition benches on Saturday voted against the Rs422 billion provincial budget 2010-11 when it was put to a vote after a 10-day debate.
While the budget was approved by an overwhelming majority of present members, the finance bill for the year was adopted unanimously.
Rejecting nearly all the cut motions as ‘non-serious’, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah contested the opposition’s allegation of extravagance by treasury members or the bureaucracy. The opposition, however, insisted that many of the allocations proposed in the budget were a waste of public money.
Except for a Rs943.481 million grant which was approved unanimously for the law department, all the other 58 demands for grant were passed with a voice vote amid thumping of the desk.
Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, after seeking consent of the treasury and opposition benches, had clubbed 54 of the 59 demands for grant together before putting the budget to a vote.
Both the speaker and the chief minister thanked all parliamentary parties and independent MPAs for demonstrating democratic attitude and the desired level of tolerance during the debate on the budget. They also congratulated the house on the passage of the budget. The house was adjourned till 2.25pm on Monday.
Before the house took up the finance bill for consideration, the chief minister highlighted its salient features saying that certain duties and taxes were rationalised. He said the bill envisaged levy of the capital value tax on immovable property which, before the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, was collected by the federal government.
He said stamp duty had been reduced from three to two per cent and the capital value tax had also been reduced from four to two per cent.
Mr Shah informed the house that no new tax on agricultural income had been introduced as agriculturists were already paying certain taxes. He made no mention of the forceful demand from the second biggest party in the ruling coalition for the levy of such a tax.
After the finance bill was approved unanimously, the chief minister paid tribute to the speaker for conducting the house proceedings in accordance with the rules of procedure in an exceptionally conducive atmosphere. He also expressed gratitude to the opposition for its democratic and positive approach in the house.
Leader of the combined opposition Jam Madad Ali reciprocated the gestures on behalf of his colleagues.
Earlier, Jam Madad Ali, Nusrat Sahar Abbasi, Shaheryar Maher and Razzaq Rahimoo, supporting their cut motions, severely criticised the treasury benches for not taking their cut motions seriously and Syed Qaim Ali Shah responded to the criticism by justifying the expenditure.
The opposition members questioned repeatedly changing the luxurious furniture and cars for the Governor’s House, CM’s House and for ministers, advisers, special assistants and a large number of bureaucrats, besides legislators. They deplored that the sparingly used furniture and vehicles in immaculate condition were replaced with much more expensive substitutes. They also insisted on a drastic cut in the number of ministers, advisers and special assistants to reduce unnecessary expenditure. The chief minister said that it was necessary to maintain elegant furniture and cars at such places which were frequently visited by foreign dignitaries. Ms Abbasi asked if these dignitaries visited the country to see the interior decoration in the Governor’s House and CM’s House or enjoy their journey in luxurious cars. She said in certain countries, governors, chief ministers and even those holding higher positions used bikes and small cars. The chief minister asked if the woman legislator would like to visit her constituency using a bull-cart.
“We have to run the government, and the present setup inherited vehicles as old as 8-10 years,” said Mr Shah, adding that that expenditure of the CM’s House had been considerably reduced to save Rs20 million under this head last year. He promised to effect further cuts next year.
Regarding the expenses on the maintenance of CM’s helicopter, the chief minister claimed: “This machine has already been disposed of”.