A BUDGET is all about the political choices a government makes. The eight-month-old Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo government in Balochistan has made its choice, which is to reward lawmakers from the ruling BAP and the opposition benches who helped him take the throne in the province. It has done so at the cost of the fiscal discipline badly needed to manage the finances of the impoverished province in a prudent manner. The Rs612.7bn provincial budget for 2022-23 is based on exaggerated revenue receipts and leaves a massive hole of at least Rs72.8bn in financing for its Rs191.5bn development programme. This gap in resources available for development will increase if the provincial government fails to realise the estimated cash — and fully — from all the resources indicated in the budget plan, especially the amount of Rs55bn shown against gas fields’ ‘lease extension bonus’. The budget for the present year had also indicated this amount under the same head but did not receive a single rupee. Clearly, the government will have to drastically slash its funding for development schemes to be undertaken or completed in the coming fiscal. That the province had to cut its original development plan from Rs172.5bn to Rs91.8bn in the current financial year due to resource constraints hasn’t taught the new government much.
Finance Minister Abdul Rehman Khetran has described the budget as ‘people-friendly’ as it increases allocations for development. One is at a loss to understand how a budget that will leave hundreds of incomplete schemes in its trail, due to shortage of money, can be people-friendly or pro-poor. That the lawmakers were wrangling over development funds on a day when the rains killed several people in parts of the province, swept away roads, and damaged bridges and other infrastructure shows how successive provincial governments have miserably failed the people of Balochistan. With most of the population living in extreme poverty due to few employment opportunities and climatic effects on agriculture, the people deserve a caring government that can put their needs before its own political interests.
Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2022