Huge foreign loans acquired by KP govt echoes in PA

Nisar Mahmood
Saturday, May 14, 2022

PESHAWAR: The issue of the rising volume of foreign loans – over Rs 598 billion — by the KP government echoed in the provincial assembly on Friday.

To a question by Rehana Ismail of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, it was informed the KP government had acquired foreign loans of Rs 598.78 billion so far.Rehana Ismail said she had sought a year-wise break-up of the loans the provincial government had received to date, but the Finance Department in its answer did not provide details and just mentioned the total figure.

She said the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal set-up had brought the loans down to Rs 16 billion from earlier 18 billion while the figure went up to Rs 97 billion during the Awami National Party and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) coalition government.However, the loans swelled to above Rs 500 billion during the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, she added.

‘From where the loans would be repaid as the province has very limited resources?’ she posed a question, adding most of the loans were acquired for transport, especially the Asian Development Bank loan for the Bus Rapid Transit, which according to the government, is also running in deficit.

In his reply, Finance and Health Minister Taimur Salim Jhagra said KP was the only province having its own debt management unit that monitors how loans were acquired and repaid along with the terms and conditions of receiving loans.

He said the domestic loan was zero and there was a special account wherein money was transferred from the consolidated fund, adding subsidy on flour was paid from this account.The minister said loans were being acquired on easy terms and conditions.

‘Loans are only acquired for major projects like BRT, Swat Motorway and the proposed Peshawar-Dera Ismail Khan Motorway which cannot be executed without foreign loans’ he argued.

Jhagra said all the projects being executed through foreign loans would generate income.However, he did not oppose the demand to send the question to the committee as Rehana Ismail insisted the matter should be discussed in the committee as to how the repayment of loans would be managed and the province would get rid of the burden.

Nighat Orakzai of the PPP raised the matter of Ombudsperson KP for Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace’s salary which, she said, was just Rs 130,000 per month as compared to her counterpart in Sindh who draws Rs 1.8 million and in Punjab, the salary was Rs 1.3 million.

She also demanded raise in the salary of MPAs which, she felt, was too low compared to Punjab and Sindh.Nighat Orakzai said the matter of MPAs salary be sent to the relevant committee and settled at the earliest.

She demanded issuing of Blue passports for MPAs as was the case with MNAs. Naeema Kishwar of the JUIF supported the point and said the Ombudsperson KP for Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace had not been paid salary for six months despite that it was very small.

Law Minister Fazal Shakoor, however, said the salary of ombudsperson had been recently increased to Rs 255,250 per month and would be increased further made with the passage of time.

Responding to the demand for a raise in MPAs’ salary Taimur Jhagra said the point was valid as public representatives should have a reasonable package but the house should be united over it so that the matter was not used for point-scoring later. However, he said the file was already with the chief minister.

The adjournment motion of Inayatullah Khan of Jamaat-e-Islami about the increase in medicines prices was admitted for a detailed discussion.The call attention notice of Sahibzada Sanaullah about the non-allotment of official residences to the assembly employees was referred to the committee concerned.

The House witnessed a heated debate on electricity loadshedding in the province as Fazle Elahi of the ruling PTI warned of forcibly restoring power supply from gridstation in his area if loadshedding was not ended.He criticized the newly installed federal government for loadshedding.

Deputy Speaker Mahmood Jan, who was presiding over the session, also complained and said the imported government was responsible for excessive loadshedding.He said the Peshawar Electric Supply Company chief would be called to the assembly to answer the members’ question about power outages in their constituencies.

However, Nighat Orakzai of PPP and Mian Nisar Gul of JUIF reminded Fazle Elahi and other treasury members as to why they were silent when power would remain cut off for hours during the PTI government.They asked why Fazle Elahi did not attack gridstation during the last three and a half years unlike during the Nawaz Sharif government.