Sindh’s budget for the next financial year, 2020-21 will be coronavirus impact-oriented with priorities on health services, employment generation, social security, and education innovation, said Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.
He was presiding over a meeting for the budget. The coronavirus emergency indicators such as an increase in expenditures, drop in government revenue, decline in exports, unemployment and loss of purchasing power needed to be addressed.
He told his Finance and Planning & Development teams that top priority would be given to strengthening health systems under which COVID-19 emergency hospitals would be established. “We are already establishing Coronavirus Emergency Center at NIPA and similar facilities would be developed at all divisional headquarters,” he said.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) need small loans, subsidies, and other concessions to stay afloat. Soft loans to given to SMEs up to Rs Rs500,000 to small business and Rs2 million to medium enterprises.
The agriculture soft loans will be for purchasing export quality seeds, DAP, urea so that export quality rice, pulses and other crops could be cultivated. “I would direct the agriculture minister to guide growers, particularly the small ones to switch them over to seasonal crops, new cash crops and export-oriented crops so that they can revive themselves,” he said.
Loans would be given to livestock and poultry. “This is the best business if cattle is reared on scientific and healthy grounds,” he said. Demand in the international market is always on the rise.
In the next budget he wanted to start a poverty alleviation programme under which interest free loans to be given to individuals to start a business for which the government or its partners would offer technical assistance. These loans would be given to those who wanted to switch over from one small business to other or start afresh. Women would be given priority.
The development budget may be curtailed to create space for health services, revival of the economy. However, health schemes, education, road sector water supply and sanitation would be given priority.
All mega development projects would be public, private partnerships. “This will help minimize financial pressure on the government and help create employment,” he said.
Mr Shah said that he has approached the World Bank and other donor agencies to help the Sindh government to carry on development works and social protection programmes while fighting coronavirus.
His government wants to start a social protection strategy to target individual and families highly vulnerable to food insecurity through targeted income/food support, particularly in low-income high-density communities with high risk contagious diseases.
He directed P&D chairman Mohammad Waseem to prepare schemes for six shelter homes at the divisional headquarters and two lost and found children’s centers in Karachi. These centers would help support homeless people and lost and found children.
“This is the time to work as a welfare government and Inshallah we will not leave our people alone at this critical time,” he vowed.
The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, CM Coordinators Haris Gazdar, P&D Chairman Mohammad Waseem and his team, Finance Secretary Hassan Naqvi and his team.