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Pakistan

Balochistan approves budget for FY22 after protests delay proceedings

  • Session started hours after scheduled time due to protest by opposition
  • Health allocated 23% higher amount, education receives negligible increase
Published June 18, 2021

The Balochistan government approved on Friday the budget for fiscal year 2021-22 in a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, after protests and chaos outside the assembly delayed the start of proceedings by at least two hours.

An amount of Rs346.9 billion has been marked as non-development expenditure, while development expenditure will stand at Rs237.2 billion, up from Rs156.5 billion in 2020-21. Foreign project assistance has been estimated at Rs16.7 billion, up from Rs12.2 billion in 2020-21.

Additional Chief Secretary Planning and Development Hafiz Abdul Basit also briefed the meeting about the proposed Annual Development Program.

Finance Secretary Pasand Khan Buledi gave a separate detailed briefing to the cabinet about budget estimates, revenue and expenditure and financial discipline

The chief minister said all relevant stakeholders were consulted in the preparation of the budget, adding that his government will ensure financial discipline in the next financial year.

"The first priority of my government is to increase revenue for betterment of the province," he added.

An amount of Rs71.9 billion has been announced to be allocated to the education sector, a negligible increase over 2020-21, while health would be given Rs38.53 billion, 23% higher than the amount budgeted for 2020-21, in the next fiscal year. A 100% increase in allocation was witnessed for Social Protection initiatives, as the Balochistan government decided to put aside Rs10.8 billion, up from Rs5.3 billion in FY21.

Protests by opposition

Earlier, in what has become the norm this year, the budget session of the Balochistan Assembly started at least two hours late, amid protests by opposition lawmakers over what they claimed was an unjust distribution of funds.

Opposition lawmakers had blocked roads leading to the assembly premises in an effort to stop the government from presenting the provincial budget for the new fiscal year.

The budget session, scheduled for 4 pm, could not start as opposition members locked all gates in an attempt to prevent administrative officials from entering the hall.

Meanwhile, police baton-charged opposition members outside the assembly building. A police-armored personnel carrier (APC) also crashed into the gate of the MPAs' Hostel as it tried to clear the entry point of the building.

Following the administration’s successful negotiations with the opposition, the assembly’s gates were opened.

The budget session began under the chair of Speaker Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo. An opposition lawmaker, Nasrullah Zehray, accused the police of using violent methods to disperse the protesters outside the assembly. 

Sana Baloch, another MPA, criticised the government, saying that the “province was at its worst state”.

The opposition members, comprising lawmakers from several parties, have been protesting for four days over the alleged neglect of their constituencies in the budget.

Leader of the opposition, Malik Sikandar Hayat, said the government "did not take us into confidence regarding the budget and their four-day protest was not taken seriously".

"Today, we were forced to close the gate," he said.

On the other hand, Balochistan government spokesman Liaquat Shahwani said opposition members have crossed all boundaries of morality, and taken the assembly hostage. "The sanctity of the assembly has been violated by immoral acts," Shahwani said.

A day earlier, supporters of opposition parties blocked national highways in several cities of Balochistan, including Quetta, Chagai, Washuk, Kharan, and Nushki.

Opposition lawmakers had also announced that they would not let the provincial government present the budget on Friday.

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