Over Rs 96 billion Sindh budget presented amid rumpus

KARACHI (June 17 2003) : Amidst the worst pandemonium of its kind Sindh Assembly has ever witnessed during the last 56 years, Provincial Finance Minister Sardar Ahmed on Monday presented Rs 96,046.69 million Sindh budget for fiscal year 2003-04, showing a deficit of Rs 2,744.107 million.

Immediately after the recitation from the Holy Quran the members of opposition took to an organised protest against the presentation of the budget without inclusion of proposals earlier jointly formulated and adopted by the Assembly regarding National Finance Commission Award.

The members of opposition stood up on benches and chanted anti-chief minister, anti-budget and anti-establishment slogans.

They also burnt copies of the budget speech and waved it without caring about the damage it would cause to the floor of the house.

Burning papers fell on the wooden floor covered by carpet and caused black spots.

The protesting members of opposition did not mind leaving their seats and 'gheraoed' (besieged) the finance minister blocking his delivery of speech–by force.

In the obtaining situation, stalwarts of the ruling coalition had no option other than stepping in to protect the finance minister and to provide him moral support to continue reading his budget speech.

The helpless speaker, Muzaffar Hussain Shah, simply looked on and waited to see the finance minister read his last paragraph.

Immediately after the speech of the finance minister the speaker adjourned the session to meet again on Thursday at 9:30 am.

During the fiscal year 2003-04, general revenue expenditure is estimated at Rs 89,458.044 million, and capital expenditure at Rs 6,498.646 million.

The net expenditure is, therefore, estimated at Rs 96,046.69 million, against receipts of Rs 93,302.583 million–general expected revenue receipts Rs 90,914.583 million and capital receipts Rs 2,388.00 million.

The deficit of Rs 2,744.107 million would be met either through additional grant from federal government or from adjustments of rates in provincial taxes.

The revenue break-up is: federal transfers from the divisible pool Rs 41,817.594 million; straight transfers Rs 24,081.834 million; and Octroi and Zila Tax Grant Rs 10,871.000 million.

The federal transfers would increase by 16 percent over the revised estimates of 2003-03.

There will be provincial receipts Rs 14,144.155 million, showing an increase of over 20 percent over the revised estimates of Rs 11,734.635 million for 2002-03.

The budget will, however, bring substantial relief in property taxes, stamp duties and land and agriculture tax rates.

In line with the decision taken by the federal government, the provincial government will also give a raise of 15 percent in salaries and pensions to provincial government employees from July 1, 2003.

RELIEF IN PROPERTY TAX: The limit of exemption from paying property tax has been increased from Rs 10,000 gross annual rental value (GARV) to Rs 24,000 for widows, minors, orphans and disabled persons, and retired federal and provincial government servants.

Similarly, the ceiling for exemption on residential houses has been increased from plot of 100 square yards with covered area of 600 square feet to plot/house of 120 sq yds with covered area not exceeding 900 sq ft.

Ceiling for the owners of flats having area up to 350 sq ft has been increased up to covered area not exceeding 600 sq ft

CALAMITY HIT AREAS: The budget would bring relief to the people of calamity hit areas. Remission of property tax for year up to June 30, 2004 will be granted to the calamity affected areas R-Division of Karachi and coastal areas of districts Badin and Thatta on houses constructed on plots not exceeding 400 sq yds.

HOTEL INDUSTRY: The budget will meet the overdue demand of the hotel industry, as capacity tax has been reduced. Bed tax/capacity tax on hotels will now be reduced from 70 percent and 60 percent to a uniform 25 percent.

PROPERTY TAX VALUATION: Scheduled valuation table (Concessionary commercial properties) has been rationalised. Property tax on educational institutions, hospitals, clinics and dispensaries will be reduced by 50 percent in property tax Divisions A, B, and y 75 percent in property tax Zones C and D of Karachi and other districts of Sindh.

GOLD: Infrastructure cess on gold will be reduced from 0.5 percent to 0.125 percent.

STAMP DUTY: Stamp duty has been a cause of concern for which the budget 2003-04 has suggested that stamp duty on auction by court or revenue authority would be reduced from five percent to three percent; on release from two percent to one percent; on gift deeds from five percent to three percent; on declaration and confirmation of oral gifts to the legal heirs from 1/4th of five percent to 1/10th of three percent; and on partition from 4.5 percent to one percent.

AGRICULTURE TAX: During the fiscal year 2003-04 there would be relief in the payment of agricultural taxes.

It has been proposed to increase the exemption (Agriculture tax) on holdings from 12 acres irrigated to 24 acres non-irrigated land to 16 acres and 32 acres respectively from Kharif 2003.

To facilitate the tillers, bulldozer charges will be reduced to Rs 125 per hour for 90 HP and Rs 175 per hour for 120 HP machine.

The budget is not without interest for the members of Sindh Assembly who would be provided raise in the allowances so as to bring it in conformity with the Schedule of Allowances as admissible to members of Punjab Assembly.

PAY AND PENSION: The Budget 2003-04 has taken into consideration 15 percent raise in salaries and pensions of provincial employees from July, 2003.

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