Govt breaks the bank for MNAs’ uplift schemes

ISLAMABAD: Despite being beset on all sides by political challenges, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government has disbursed all the funds earmarked for parliamentarians’ development schemes for the fiscal year 2017-18.

This is in stark contrast to less-than one per cent released for the rest of the country’s core development programme.

Under the government’s own disbursement mechanism, 20pc each is released in the first two quarters, followed by 30pc each in the last two quarters.

In contrast, no funds have so far been relea­sed for the all-important ‘Energy for All’ and ‘Clean Drinking Water for All’ initiatives, which were allocated Rs12.5 billion each.

Similarly, no funds have been disbursed to special federal development projects, which were allocated Rs35bn.

Full Rs30bn earmarked for parliamentarians’ areas released in one go; no spending on energy, water projects under PSDP so far

The Planning Commis­sion, which is now controlled directly by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as minister in charge of planning and development, has said it had released a total of Rs53.6bn in development funds as of Aug 11, 2017.

This accounts for about 5.36pc of the total Public Sector Development Pro­gramme (PSDP), worth just over Rs1 trillion, for the current fiscal year.

The disbursements in­clude a lump-sum payment of Rs30bn for community development schemes on the recommendations of the parliamentarians, codenamed ‘Prime Minister’s Global SDGs Achieve­ment’ programme.

The government had allocated a total of Rs30bn for this head for the entire fiscal year, and it is very rare for all the funding under a particular head to be released in one go, that too in the very first quarter.

This programme consists of small community development schemes, prepared on the recommendations of parliamentarians, ostensibly aimed at improving the living standards of citizens through the provision of new roads, sewerage and water supply projects, etc.

Another Rs14.4bn was doled out of Rs70.5bn block allocations for three special areas under the federal government’s financial control; Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Gilgit Baltis­tan and the tribal areas.

Similarly, a sum of Rs3.2bn was released for another politically oriented scheme — ‘Prime Minister’s Youth & Hunarmand’ Pro­gramme — against its full allocation of Rs20bn.

These three heads alone account for the bulk of total funds disbursed for the PSDP 2017-18, the utilisation of which stands at 5.36pc.

Apart from these three heads, expenses on core dev­elopment expenditure during this period stood at a discouragingly low Rs5.08bn, just 0.5pc of the total PSDP for 2017-18.

This included PSDP funds released to all 38 federal ministries and divisions, against an annual allocation of Rs306bn, at a dismal disbursement ratio of 1.66pc.

Even here, only a handful of ministries managed to obtain disbursements. These included Rs2.6bn to the communications division, while seven other divisions, including climate change, finance, National Health Services, petroleum, planning, Sup­arco and the Nuclear Regu­latory Authority received Rs350m on average.

Disbursements for areas dubbed as a priority for the PML-N government — electricity, highways and water — stood flat at zero.

This is despite the fact that the government has allocated Rs62bn for the power sector, Rs326bn for national highways and Rs37bn for the water sector.

No funds had been released for these three priority areas as of August 11, 2017, against a total allocation of Rs424bn for the year.

This disbursement was significantly lower than targets set by the federal government, under which it should have released about 10pc of annual allocations by now.

During almost the same period last year, the government had disbursed about Rs57bn against a total PSDP allocation of Rs800bn.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2017

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