Caretaker Govt Trims Development But Huge Funding of Parliamentarian Schemes Raises Eyebrows

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The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) repeated requests to curtail unnecessary development expenditures have somehow made an impact as the current caretaker government opted for fiscal restraint, having spent just Rs. 76 billion or roughly 8 percent of the annual budget in its first four months in power, spoiled majorly by unjustified funding of parliamentarians’ development schemes.

The government initially allocated a substantial amount of Rs. 950 billion for development projects in the ongoing financial year, but the pace of spending has been desirably slow, with only Rs. 76 billion utilized since August 2023, according to data released by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives on Wednesday.

The biggest portion of the released funds totaling Rs. 27.15 billion was directed towards Discre­tionary spending by parliamentarians under the Sustainable Development Goals Achievement Pro­gram, a big drop from the previous government’s allocation of Rs. 61.3 billion. Nevertheless, this allocation raises questions about the prioritization of projects and the equitable distribution of resources.

The breakdown of funds released reveals notable gaps in various sectors. Ministries such as Commerce, Religious Affairs, Narcotics Control, and Frontier Regions received no funds during this period. The National Highway Authority (NHA), responsible for road construction, spent just Rs. 9.38 billion (full allocation: Rs. 156 billion) during the period in review.

Provinces and special areas received Rs. 25.9 billion, while the higher education sector spent just Rs. 3 billion despite a total development budget of Rs. 59.7 billion at the disposal of the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

The Planning Ministry released Rs. 3.13 billion to Housing and Works, while Pakistan Railways received a comparatively Rs. 1.5 billion since August.

Special initiatives of the Prime Minister, allocated Rs. 80 billion, have seen only Rs. 250 million released during this period. Moreover, the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) and Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) have received Rs. 2.25 billion, collectively.

In terms of sector-specific allocations, the education development projects have received Rs. 21.46 million, while national health projects have received only Rs. 3.31 million. The stark contrast in the released amounts highlights Pakistan’s aim to curb unnecessary spending on par with development priorities, as the current government navigates the IMF’s directives for fiscal responsibility.

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