KP government presents Rs162 billion budget for new districts

Sohail Khattak breaks down the numbers in the budget presented by the provincial assembly last week

KP government presents Rs162 billion budget for new districts
For the first time in its history, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government presented the budget for the newly merged tribal districts of the province with a total outlay of Rs162 billion. These districts were previously known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

KP Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra presented the provincial budget for the fiscal year 2019-20. It was aimed at nullifying protests by opposition parties in the KP assembly.

“This is a historic moment. For the first time I am presenting the budget of a new and bigger Khyber Pakhtunkhwa...It is a good opportunity to welcome the people of merged tribal districts,” the finance minister said proudly in his budget speech in the House on Tuesday.

Jhagra presented the biggest budget of KP of about Rs900 billion, with Rs319 billion allocated for development schemes.

The erstwhile tribal areas became the part of KP after the assemblies passed the 25th constitutional amendment last year. They are now referred to as the new tribal districts of KP. The budget includes Rs83 billion for development schemes in these war-torn districts and Rs79 billion for their current expenditures.

The development outlay includes Rs24 billion allocated to the merged districts’ Annual Development Programme (ADP), which comprises Rs20 billion of the provincial component (funds allocated for the provincial government’s development schemes in the merged districts) and Rs4 billion for the district component (funds allocated for district governments’ use).

A major chunk of Rs59 billion will be provided under the Tribal Decade Strategy (TDS), including Rs48 billion provided by the federal government and Rs11 billion shared by the provinces.

The TDS plan is a ten-year strategy of the federal government under which Rs1 trillion are to be spent on the development of the merged districts. For the year 2019-20, Rs59 billion will be spent under the plan, although the original plan was to spend Rs100 billion each year for 10 consecutive years.

The cash-starved federal government had demanded from the provinces to provide three percent from their share in the divisible pool to be spent on the development of the militancy-hit tribal districts.

KP Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra told media that the Punjab and Balochistan did not provide their share in the TDS this year, although the federal government had demanded from the provinces to provide three percent of their share.

The KP government has put Rs11 billion as its three percent share to be spent on the development on the merged districts, Jhagra told journalists in Peshawar last week.

Jhagra also said that Rs100 billion left over from the defence budget would be spent on the development of tribal districts and Balochistan

Sources in the KP government say the Sindh government was already against the government’s demand of getting three percent from the provinces, while the Punjab and Balochistan refused to contribute at the last minute.

Similarly, Rs17 billion have be set aside to be spent on the development of the internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Under the Annual Development Programme 2019-20, development schemes involving Rs2.47 billion would be executed on the directives of the prime minister while Rs1.93 billion had been allocated for the chief minister directives’ schemes. The chief minister directives schemes include establishment of a medical college in Kurram at the cost of Rs0.6 billion, while the rest of the amount will be spent on development of roads in the merged districts.

The Prime Minister Directives comprises various schemes including solar-electrification of educational institutes, mosques, drinking water tube-wells and religious seminaries in the districts. It also includes construction of sports grounds and complexes along with schemes for promotion of tourism in the merged districts. It also includes umbrella schemes of small check dams in South Waziristan and a scheme of introducing tele-medicine in North Waziristan.

According to the documents available with The Friday Times, Rs9.5 billion under the TDS will be spent on development schemes in the energy sector, including Rs4.378 allocated for the construction of Chapari Charkhel hydropower project in Kurram. The remainder will be spent on the up-gradation of electricity infrastructure in Orakzai, Kurram, Waziristan, Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber.

Rs3.67 billion has been earmarked for relief and rehabilitation in the merged district under which the government will extend the services of Rescue 1122 and will establish a new rescue department in the merged district.

Rs1.1 billion will be spent under the Insaaf Rozgar Scheme in these areas. Similarly, the white paper of the budget states that the KP government health Insurance Scheme called the Insaaf Sehat Card would be extended to all families of the merged districts, and the government would take robust measures for expansion of new services to the areas, including strengthening the judiciary, local government and social services that would create 18,000 posts in year 2019-20.

The writer is a journalist based in Peshawar