Editorial: Balochistan’s COVID Budget

Balochistan presented a budget of Rs465 billion, which is 22.4% higher than the revised budget of last year. So despite COVID19 Balochistan’s budget has increased. Current expenditure has increased by 18% to 294 billion and development expenditure by 50% to 156 billion.
Receipts from the federal government have decreased from Rs326 billion last year to 302 billion this year. This decrease has been caused by a cut in Balochistan’s share in the federal divisible pool. The government of Balochistan has increased provincial own receipts estimates from Rs34billion to 46 Billion. However, last year it could only collect 74% of estimated revenue. This year the bulk of provincial receipts come from provincial taxes deducted at source by Balochistan Revenue Authority.
Last year Rs100 billion were allocated for PSDP but only 74 billion could be utilized. This year PSDP has been increased to 106 Billion. The major increase in development expenditure comes though federal funded projects outside PSDP at a value of 38 billion. Last year Balochistan could only spend 74% of its PSDP and thus the claims of the government of record development spending are incorrect.
This budget of Balochistan comes with a deficit of staggering Rs87 billion. Last year’s deficit was 47 billion. This means Balochistan has to make huge cuts on its budgeted expenditure & PSDP will be the natural target. Hence, actual spending on PSDP next year can be as low as 20 billion.
Amid COVID19 the health budget has been increased by a significant 31% to Rs31 billion. This includes procuring an air ambulance for 2.5 billion. This is again a questionable move because it hints that the Government of Balochistan prefers airlifting serious patients to Karachi and not develop quality hospitals in Quetta.
The government of Balochistan has allocated Rs4.5 billion for Covid-19 response, which can be sufficient if spent wisely and honestly. The spending on building quarantine centers in the last few months had a lot of irregularities. There is no significant plan for Post-COVID economic recovery apart from the announcement of 6,840 job vacancies. Given the track record of previous years, it would be nearly impossible to hire on all these announced vacancies.
This year’s budget for security has been increased by 18% to Rs48 billion. Now, security consumes 16.5% of the total current expenditure budget of the impoverished province of Balochistan. Law and order budget includes Rs22 billion for Police and 12 Billion for Levies, which covers a greater area and performs far better than Police. Only 500 million have been allocated out of the remaining cost of 1.6 billion for the Quetta Safe City project, which is in pipeline since 2012.
The government of Balochistan has increased grants in aid to public universities from Rs1.5 billion to 3.94 billion. This is a welcome increase but this in no way can substitute the funding cut for HEC by the federal government. The government of Balochistan has also allocated funds for the establishment of the Loralai Uni sub-campus in Barkhan. This is again a questionable decision because the Uni of Loralai itself has not kicked-off and only has a few hundred students. In fact, the Government of Balochistan must announce a moratorium on new sub-campuses.
Budget documents reveal that the Government of Balochistan will receive foreign loans of Rs8.66 billion & repay loans of 5.84 billion this year. Total foreign loan obligations by the Government of Balochistan stand at 50 billion. This is a huge amount and more details about this should be made public and its usefulness must be explained.
Balochistan Voices
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