Punjab Assembly Budget 2011-12
Speech of Mr. Moonis Elahi
(Since I have been unjustifiably refused my fundamental right as an elected public representative by none less than the House Custodian himself, I deem it necessary to present my views, analyses and observations to you on this year’s Punjab Budget in writing. I am exercising my democratic right to opinion, refused otherwise through the following lines. Moonis Elahi)
As a member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly and being a representative of the people who had elected me to this august house in 2008, it was my constitutional right and privilege to have been allowed to participate in the Punjab Assembly, 2011-12 Budget Session. The Hon. Speaker’s “NO” for “unknown reasons”, to the point of order raised by Ch. Zaheer ud Din on June 10, 2011, urging him to issue my production orders for the ongoing budget session, denied me that fundamental constitutional right. This denial was a blunt refusal to honour the mandate of the electorate who had chosen me to fight for their rights in the assembly. It was also a denial to democracy to flourish at a forum solely meant to uphold, protect and respect the Will and the Voice of the People. Despite the support of the house and the already existing precedents, the Hon. Speaker by ceding his role as the Custodian of the House may have pleased “someone” but even from a lay man’s point of view, has set in motion a highly unhealthy tradition of negative partisanship and obvious partiality. Also goes without saying that in future whenever replicated the historians will be obliged to put the brunt of this unhealthy tradition’s blame on the present Hon. Speaker of the Punjab Assembly.
It is a widely acknowledged fact that the province of Punjab just four years back was a text book example of how a government and a people could come together to bring about an era of unprecedented progress and change. The provincial GDP was well above 8% and 1.4 million new jobs were coming up in the job market every year. During this time, under Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s watchful and welfare oriented administration all sections of the society including farmers, workers, masons, clerks, teachers, doctors, businessmen, minorities etc; were prospering. On the contrary, just four years later all the good work of the Pakistan Muslim League government done till 2007 seems like a distant dream. The people of Punjab are now witnessing an era of unprecedented poverty, deprivation and injustice instead. Today, Punjab’s self-styled Khadim e Ala has turned the province into a laboratory of his ill-conceived experiments that have repeatedly borne disastrous results, but to no avail. In the last four years the once economically surplus Punjab has become an epitome of financial mismanagement. In the name of dubious and short lived schemes like Sasti Roti, Ashyana, Danish Schools and now the reincarnated Yellow Cab Scheme the present rulers of Punjab have skimmed and squandered billions.
Let us first take a critical look at the self-styled Khadim e Ala’s “Bucchat” i.e. savings initiatives. The last three provincial budgets bear testimony to the fact that every year the chief minister has been expending public money way beyond the prescribed limits. The Chief Minister House budget for the past financial year was put at Rs 260 million but by the year’s end an additional amount of Rs. 60 million was spent. The chief minister and his honourable brother are known for doling out public funds and assets as gifts to their favourites. In the past financial year this “glorious” tradition continued and the chief minister gave away gifts worth a generous sum of Rs. 22.5 million out of the government kitty to God knows who. The transport allocation for the chief minister was of Rs. 4 million but here too we see Rs. 20.5 million of public money being spent. Similarly the chief minister could use up to Rs. 30 million as discretionary funds in the last financial plan but instead we see Rs 60 million being indiscreetly blown away in the name of discretionary funds.
The chief minister Punjab is maintaining at government expense two official secretariats and 5 camp offices which are actually his personal residences. Appreciating the fact that the chief minister has to look after a continuously growing number of spouses, it will not be out of place to ask him to look after his sweet hearts from his personal wealth rather than from the already depleted resources of the heart-broken and poor Punjabis.
This year’s Punjab Budget is an outcome of a mindset bent upon brutally ripping the last shreds of flesh from an animal’s carcass. Show no mercy and have no mercy on the poor is what this budget is all about. I wish to draw your attention to the block allocations mentioned in the budget. An enormous sum of Rs. 33 billion has been allocated to roads, water supply and sanitation, higher education, health, transport and planning and development projects. But my question is, whither the projects? As against these allocations not a single individual project has been ascribed. It seems an obvious conclusion that among other robberies a Rs. 33 billion heist has also been planned through these block allocations. Allow me to call these block allocations as “Black Allocations” instead as they are surreptitiously meant to give the self-styled khadim e Ala a free hand in squandering huge government funds for furthering his vested personal and political aims.
How can one forget the Punjab chief minister’s pronouncement of breaking the begging bowl and not accepting international help? Ironically, he made this announcement just 24 days before this year’s budget. And look at the shameful turn around, as the budget figures show that this year Punjab will receive Rs. 20 billion in the form of international assistance. Why did the chief minister make an announcement and then go back on it? So much for honouring what you profess!
The Sasti Roti Scam is arguably the most thought out rip-off, of the people of Punjab in recent times. According to authentic sources a sum of Rs. 14.5 billion was systematically looted in this scam. In this year’s budget although no amount has been allocated to this disastrous scheme but ironically an amount of Rs 12 million has been allocated to the Sasti Roti Authority. This is a blatant example of nepotism and corruption where the rulers seem to be rewarding their favourites without taking into account their own dismal failures. The poor are getting poorer but the rulers unbothered are continuing with their loot and plunder.
According to the Auditor General’s report a huge amount of Rs. 40 billion is unaccounted for in the Punjab government accounts. Where has this money gone? This is a question that will be thoroughly investigated once the present rulers are voted out by the people.
The inconsistent and temperamental policies of the present Punjab government have turned the province into a waste land and a laboratory of failed experiments. It will be most appropriate to advise the chief minister and his respected elder brother to in future kindly restrict these flop experiments to their own Jaati Umra Palace and keep the poor people of the province out of them.
The Punjab treasury is empty yet the rulers’ greed and avarice know no bounds. Take the example of the reincarnation of the fraudulent Yellow Cab scheme in this year’s Punjab Budget. Who can forget that the last time this dubious scheme was unveiled it resulted in a complete collapse of two banks and a partial melt down of five other banks. This budget round, a huge sum of Rs. 4.5 billion has been again allocated to the yellow cab scheme. According to sources, Mr. Ishaq Dar has already inked a deal with a French automobiles manufacturer and a huge chunk of the allocated funds for this scheme will go down the deep pockets of “you know who”. Yellow Cabs Part 2 will be another scandal worth public accountability in the days to come.
In the face of rampant youth unemployment the need of the hour was to lift ban on government jobs and create well thought out youth self-employment schemes. But the current Punjab rulers instead of living up to this dire need have announced another fraudulent scheme in the budget which on the face of it will be meant to give Rs. 20,000 as financial assistance to the “deserving” youth but in actuality will be meant to espouse nepotism and corruption. Pray! Let me know that in today’s day and age what kind of business can one start with such a paltry “financial assistance”? That a government which in the last three years has not paid a penny of zakat to the deserving now with elections around the corner is bent upon extorting the public rupee for vested personal and political gains is but obvious here.
The Local Governments had become the agents of progress in the past. The present Punjab dispensation on the one hand has been delaying holding of LG elections and on the other it has allocated a staggering sum of Rs. 148 billion in this year’s budget for local governments. The obvious conclusion in this regard is again that the present Punjab rulers hell bent on looting and robbing the poor and the deprived will siphon this money through their self-appointed administrators. It is but evident that the reins of these funds will be in the hands of the chief minister and his band of forty thieves.
The last three provincial budgets have proven to be a nightmare for the people of South Punjab. They have been deprived of their rightful share in the provincial resources and left out of development plans. The truth is that there are still over twenty thousand floods devastated families living in South Punjab who still have not received the long awaited first tranche of Rs. 20,000 for reconstructing their lives. They talk of a dubious Ashyana Housing scheme while thousands of South Punjab families who lost everything in floods are still living without a roof over their heads and awaiting the arrival of the much trumpeted help. This year’s announcement of Rs.72 billion for South Punjab will prove to be yet another false promise like this government’s previous announcements for South Punjab.
On the one side, Punjab’s 63,000 plus government schools have not sighted any support in the past three budgets and on the other side their rightful share in the education budget is being vandalized in the name of the dubious Danish Schools scheme. The sel-proclaimed khadim e Ala blinded by corruption and self-glorification has brought the province’s educational growth to a grinding halt. The living proof of which is that Punjab’s literacy rate which was above 62% just four years back has now plummeted to less than 50%.
The provincial health sector is no exception to the rule. The last three years have been an unmitigated night mare for government hospitals their managements, doctors, nurses, paramedics and most of all for the poor patients. The free health care system for the sick and the needy provided by Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s government is now a thing of the past. The present government’s mishandling of the provincial health system has given birth to numerous issues and the sufferings of the ailing public have increased tremendously. Free medicines routinely available in government hospitals four years back are now no longer available. The disgruntlement of the medical community including doctors, nurses and paramedics is also at an unprecedented high. And lo and behold, the Punjab rulers instead of listening to this most vital community’s grievances preferred to beat them on roads and put them behind bars. What a shameful way to run the health system of a province of over 80 million people!
Look at the Punjab government’s callousness towards people’s right to Access of Justice. Is it not shameful that not a penny has been allocated to this vital protection of the people against the high handedness of the powerful? Is the law and order situation now so ideal in Punjab that the people have no need for such initiatives?
At the end, I will like to draw your attention towards the incumbent Punjab government’s dismal performance in utilisation of the last three year’s Annual Development Programmes’ budgets and its poor revenue collection performance. The irony is that while there is a 100% increase in the chief minister’s budget, a 50% decline in the ADP spending has been witnessed in the last three years. Similarly there is also an approximate 40% drop in the provincial revenue receipts of the last three years. I ask that with what cheek this government can claim to better the lives of the Punjabis this year when it has done everything to ruin them in the previous three years. Allow me to say that Punjab is confronted with this current tragic fate because of a polygamous ruler’s mismanagement and incompetence. At the end of the speech the Speaker accepted to make Moonis Elahi’s views on Punjab budget as part of the assembly record.