Sindh is tapping Rs1.3 billion special emergency funds. It has raised another Rs1.7bn from salary deductions of provincial government employees for a special coronavirus grant of Rs3bn to deal with the health emergency.
The provincial government has released Rs12.2bn as regular and special grants to finance the virus control–related activities until March 26, according to the finance department. The heads from which these funds have been diverted are shown in the table.
A member of the chief minister’s team shared his concerns about the paucity of funds, saying he the provincial budget has already gone haywire.
“Spending needs have multiplied while the resource inflows have shrunk on account of a drastic economic slowdown. The prospects of higher federal transfers are bleak as the resource crunch is not limited to this province alone.”
Investing in health facilities has taken precedence over all other considerations to fight Covid-19
According to another member of the chief minister’s team, the government has blocked all recurring spending except pension and salaries, which have been chopped for the current month. “We might divert the leftover development budget. We are also looking at starting a donation drive by first fixing a credible, transparent structure with the participation of philanthropic entities and volunteers to stem the chances of wastage/misuse of funds. The operative systems of NGOs will be used for the disbursal of relief in cash or kind,” he said.
“The available resources are still nowhere close to what Sindh needs. Monthly federal transfers over the past eight months of 2019-20 have been almost half of what was pledged.
“There is already a shortfall of Rs176bn in receivables from the federal government. Besides, no one expects a spike in the provincial tax collection. The picture, therefore, is dismal,” a source in the finance department said.
Talking about the ongoing policy discussion, a provincial secretary tells Dawn investing in health facilities has taken precedence over any other consideration at the moment. “We had to prioritise and we did,” he said. For relief, we intend to launch a donation drive besides paltry government funds,” he explained.
Commenting on the stocks of essential food items in the province and the possible fallout of supply chain disruptions, relevant officers admit that the government does not have a clear picture.