Sindh urges Center to announce NFC Award without delay

Sindh Finance Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah on Sunday asked the federal government to announce the new NFC award since the seventh one had lapsed in June 30, 2015.

Speaking at a post-budget 2016-17 press conference at the Sindh Assembly auditorium, he accused the federal government of being ‘uninterested’ in holding the meeting to finalise the next NFC award. “Almost in two years just one meeting for the NFC has been held,” he said.

He said that the federal government led by the PML-N was unsupported to the idea of extending NFC award and had been irresponsive to his dispatches to bring in a new award in line with the Constitution to help the provinces overcome their financial constraints.

“I protest against the federal government being a member of the NFC,” he said, adding that the central government could bring a new NFC award without any changes.

So far, the Sindh has received Rs382 billion out of its share of Rs494 billion, as the province had yet to get some Rs112 billion more, he said.

“It is very difficult to say whether the federal government has failed to reach its targets or just forcing the province to face financial troubles,” Murad said, adding that the Sindh would have to focus more on development through its available resources and slash its non-development spending for the next fiscal year 2016-17.

He charged the federal government with ‘shunning’ the Constitutional obligations. “No interest from the federal government to fulfil the Constitutional obligations,” regarding the introduction of a new NFC award, he said.

Setting new and higher collection targets for his government’s revenue organisations, he hoped the province would meet the marks in coming fiscal years, as well.

He assigned the Sindh Revenue Board (SRB) with new targets envisaging an annual 28 percent growth in the tax growth.

He said that the next fiscal year revenue target for SRB was Rs78 billion with growing to Rs100 billion by 2017-16. He said the new SBR chief had also been appointed to steer the revenue collections.

For Sindh and Excise Department, Murad said that the new fiscal year revenue target would be Rs52.76 billion up from Rs42 billion in the current financial year.

However, he acknowledged that the Board of Revenue had fallen short of its collection targets this fiscal year.

The Finance Minister said that increase in the agriculture income tax base was the government’s plan for the next fiscal year but was unable to figure out how much growth in collection could take place.

He said that the province remained far from collections on agriculture income tax this fiscal year too.

The government is going to introduce new slabs in the agriculture income tax to help clamp down on evaders and protect the low earning growers, financially.

“Rationalisation of agriculture income tax is on the government’s priorities list,” he told the newsmen, saying that the government would go for consultations with the farmers’ bodies to find a new way to help grow the revenue base.

Health, education, law and order and Energy, according to him, are the utmost priorities of the government with developing infrastructure in big and small cities equally.

To a question, he said that the government needed to develop new cities and Zulfiqarbad was one of its projects keeping in view the growing populations in the country.

“Rs10 billion has been marked for Karachi development next fiscal year and it is not an financial package rather the spending will be made for schemes,” he made it clear, saying that “Karachi was the face of Pakistan and its growth will reflect on the national development”.

However, he assured that the government would also develop small urban centers with the same sentiments.

Murad slammed the federal government for leaving Sindh ‘high and dry’ in its power generation projects, saying that the center rather created hurdles to hurt the energy schemes in the province.

He however announced that the Sindh government would start providing 100 megawatts of electricity to the K-Electric by next August.

The Finance Minister also accepted that the provincial government had a ‘capacity’ problem to spend the budgetary allocation during the current fiscal years but sought an excuse with some hurdles.

However, he said that the government’s expenditure had been over 65 percent and would reach 75 percent with ending this fiscal year.

“We should have spent Rs142 billion ADP this fiscal year,” he asserted, saying that “we have the capacity issues and we are addressing it”.

He said that the Thar power project would illumine the entire country with electricity and the arid district would become far developed leaving Karachi behind in the next 15 years. Criticising the NAB, he said that the bureau’s law was ‘unconstitutional. -Business Recorder