SINDH CABINET APPROVES COVID-19 RELIEF ORDINANCE

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Staff Report
KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that the FBR had set a target of Rs 5.5 trillion collection but now they were expecting Rs3.9 trillion collection in which the share of the Sindh government has cut down from Rs 835 billion to Rs 602 billion, showing a shortfall of Rs 233 billion.

“This is a very serious situation in which a new strategy would have to be adopted to meet the both ends in terms of payment of salaries, incurring the growing health expenditure bill and non-development expenditures,” This he said while briefing the cabinet about the fiscal position of the province. The cabinet meeting was attended by all provincial ministers, advisors, chief secretary, chairman P&D, PSCM, Secretary Finance, secretaries of forest, food, agriculture and law.

The chief minister who was assisted by Secretary Finance Hassan Naqvi said that the FBR at the onset of the financial year, 2019-20, had estimated a collection of Rs5.5 trillion against which the share of provincial government (FBR plus straight transfers) had come to Rs 835 billion. “The budget was prepared according to the estimated share of the province and then the FBR due to the current scenario is expecting to collect Rs3.9 billion and now our revised share would be Rs 602 billion,” he said and added there would a shortfall of Rs233 billion which was not a small amount.

Murad Ali Shah said that under federal transfers (Income tax, wealth tax etc), based on FBR collection, the Sindh government was vowed to provide Rs 716 billion upto June 30, 2020 but now the amount to be transferred was expected at Rs Rs 534 billion. He said that keeping in view the present financial position he has decided to cut of non- development expenditures by Rs 170 billion. “Our non-development expenditures are estimated at Rs870 billion from which I have decided to cut of Rs 170 billion – means only Rs 700 billion would be incurred,” he said.

Talking about ADP, the chief minister said that it has also been cut down from Rs 228 billion to only Rs 93 billion this year. Briefing the cabinet about coronavirus situation, the chief minister said that it was spreading throughout width and breadth of the province. “Right from Karachi to Kashmore and Karachi to Thar positives cases are emerging which is not a good sign,” he said.

COVID-19 situation: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah briefing the cabinet said that 341 more cases emerged when 2733 test were conducted which is 12.6 percent of the tests conducted. The health department has conducted so far 43949 tests against which 4956 cases were diagnosed which constitute 11.2 percent of the tests. The chief minister said that four more patients lost their lives and the number of deaths stemming from the coronavirus has reached to 85 which was 1.7 percent of the total patients. He added that 24 patients were in critical condition and 16 others were already on ventilators.

He said that at present 3946 patients were under treatment, including 2705 or 68 percent in home isolation, 825 or 21 percent at Isolation centers and 416 or 11 percent in different hospitals.

Karachi: The chief minister said that out of 341 news cases 269 belong to Karachi. They include District central 20, East 90, Korangi 40, Malir 30, South 50 and West 39. He added that despite serious efforts the people living in katchiabadies of the city were not observing social distancing, therefore the cases were increasing every day. Other Distt: Khairpur has 23 cases, Larkana 12 cases, Hyderabad 12, Ghotki eight, Sukkur four, Dadu three, Matiari two, Matiati two, Jacobabad, Umerkot and Du one each.

COVID-19 Relief Ordinance: The Sindh government through law department has proposed an ordinance to mitigate the challenges emanating from the province-wide lockdown and to put in place all necessary measures to help respond to the coronavirus affected by providing them relief.

The Sindh COVID-19 Emergency Relief Ordinance, 2020 would provide the prevention of eviction in private rented and social sector for the time being, giving equal relief to domestic residential and commercial tenants, employees and daily-wages workers; extending deadlines associated with responding to the school fees, rent and utility charges, conduct of trial or indictment and extension of period for performance of duties by the court or an office.

Reliefs: No educational institution shall charge more than 80 percent of the total monthly fees. The relief amount, reduced equivalent to 20 percent. No employee or worker shall be laid of, terminated or removed and the employee shall be paid salary by the employers. The salary amount and the deduction, if necessary, is given in schedule-I of the ordinance.

All utility providers falling within the territorial jurisdiction of the government shall provide concession (schedule-II of the ordinance) in the utility services to all domestic, residential and commercial consumers. The landlord shall defer or suspend the recovery of the rent of the premises for payable amount as indicated in schedule-III; provided that the same shall not apply in case where the owner is the widow, differently abled person and senior citizen.

The government may provide exemption in the provincial taxes, duties, fees, cess, levies and charges. In case of non-compliance of the ordinance different penalties have defined. Wheat Procurement: The cabinet was told that a target of 1.4 million tons of wheat at a rate of Rs 1400 per 40 kg procurement has been started. The department has achieved 33.55 percent target by procuring 469,673 tons.

It was pointed out that the conditions of presenting land documents such as pass boo, form-7 and verification of documents by local councils and mukhtiarkars were causing problems in smooth procurements process. At this the cabinet on the request of the food minister Hari Ram waived of the conditions imposed on procurement of wheat from the growers.
The chief minister directed food department to achieve the target and even if they have the capability of exceeding the target he would appreciate them. Desert Locust: The chief minister said: he had reports that the locust swarm attacks on the standing crops would multiply in next cropping years. “Just after coronavirus the locust swarm attacks would be another disaster,” he said

Minister Agriculture Ismail Rahu and Secretary Agriculture Raheem Soomro briefed the cabinet about the locus control and threat issues. The provincial government has released Rs 335.095 million to the agriculture department to spray the crops against which the department utilized Rs 181.638 million on the purchase of 22 (spray) vehicles, 300 solo power sprayers, 1000 hand sprayers,50,000 Emulsifiable Concentrate (EC) to combat the locust issue.

Still Rs 153.457 million are available with the department. The agriculture department has constituted 57 teams at district and taluka level and sprayed the crops. As far as spray of the desert areas was concerned it was the job of federal government’s Plant Protection Department. The chief minister was told that 12 aircrafts were required to spray in the desert areas of Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab. The federal government under National Action Plan had decided to purchase six aircraft but that purchase has not been made so far.

The cabinet urged the federal government to purchase/hire six choppers to start spray in the deserts of Sindh and Balochistan, otherwise it would play havoc in the next crops. The locust has settled in the desert of Sindh and with the start of monsoon it would breed. he chief minister had given Rs 10 million to the federal dept of Plant Protection (DPP) fr purchase of pesticide and POL. Temporary Parole: The cabinet on the request of the home department approved a proposal to authorize Jail Superintendent to grant 72 hours temporary parole to an under-trial prisoner(s) to attend death of his/her blood relative.

The cabinet also authorized the Home department to grant temporary parole to prisoner(s) under trial prisoners/convicted for 72 hours to attend marriage of blood relative or visit seriously ill blood relatives. Power of 144 Cr.PC: The cabinet approved a proposal to authorize Adl Chief Secretary /Home Secretary and all the commissioners to perform the powers under section 144 Cr.PC. SST waiver: The cabinet approved one-time waiver of Sindh Sales Tax on the commission payable to the branchless banking retailers disbursing the cash financial assistance provided under the ehsas Kafalat programme of the Benazir Income Support Programme BISP).

The Sindh cabinet also approved exemption of tax and duties on import and transfer of machines and equipment for Gwadar Hospital project. The cabinet accorded ex-post facto approval of all the notifications, circulars and SOPs issued by Additional chief Secretary Home, Additional Chief Secretary Law and Secretaries of administrative departments under The Sindh Epidemic Disease Act 2014.

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