Sindh agri sec­tor spend­ing re­lies heav­ily on for­eign loans

Pakistan Observer - - ECONOMY WATCH -

KARACHI—The Sindh govern­ment will bank heav­ily on for­eign loans for ex­pen­di­ture in the agri­cul­ture sec­tor in the next fis­cal year, show bud­get doc­u­ments. In the bud­get for 2016-17 un­veiled on Saturday, the pro­vin­cial govern­ment has al­lo­cated Rs11 bil­lion for de­vel­op­ment of the agri­cul­ture sec­tor in dif­fer­ent ar­eas in­clud­ing re­search to in­crease the out­put, bet­ter man­age­ment of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter, smart use of pes­ti­cides, train­ing of farm­ers at special schools and sup­ply of pro­duce to mar­kets and their pric­ing. Al­most half Rs5.2 bil­lion of the al­lo­ca­tion will be met through World Bank as­sis­tance for en­hanc­ing the pro­duc­tiv­ity of crops, giv­ing mar­ket ac­cess to small and medium pro­duc­ers, skills de­vel­op­ment and im­prov­ing ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter man­age­ment at field lev­els. The share of for­eign loans for the agri­cul­ture sec­tor stands at 18% in the to­tal es­ti­mated for­eign fi­nanc­ing of Rs29 bil­lion in the next fis­cal year 2016-17, start­ing July.

Sindh Finance Min­is­ter Murad Ali Shah, while pre­sent­ing the bud­get in the pro­vin­cial assem­bly, said “Rs5.2 bil­lion has been al­lo­cated for for­eign-funded projects, which in­cludes Rs2 bil­lion for the Sindh Agri­cul­ture Growth Project and Rs3 bil­lion for the Sindh Ir­ri­gated Agri­cul­ture Pro­duc­tiv­ity En­hance­ment Project.” Bud­get doc­u­ments show the govern­ment has set aside noth­ing for the Sindh Agri­cul­ture Growth Project in the An­nual De­vel­op­ment Plan and it will com­pletely count on for­eign fund­ing. The es­ti­mated cost of this five-year project, ap­proved in Fe­bru- ary 2014, stands at Rs8.86 bil­lion, of which Rs7.64 bil­lion will com­prise in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance or World Bank fi­nanc­ing. Farm­ers will con­trib­ute Rs1.2 bil­lion to com­plete the project and take ben­e­fit of it. A ma­jor share of the fund al­lo­ca­tion will be utilised for in­creas­ing the out­put of crops and slightly higher than one-fourth of the al­lo­ca­tion will go to the live­stock sec­tor.

“Four fo­cal groups of farm­ers have been formed for crops of dates, chill­ies, onions and rice to pro­mote in­vest­ment for agri­cul­ture growth,” Shah said. Sim­i­larly, the Sindh Ir­ri­gated Agri­cul­ture Pro­duc­tiv­ity En­hance­ment Pro­gramme is also ex­ces­sively de­pen­dent on for­eign fund­ing of Rs3 bil­lion next year. The five-year project, which will be com­pleted in 2020, has got the big­gest fund al­lo­ca­tion for 2016-17. Un­der the project, 350 laser land-lev­el­ling equip­ment will be pro­vided on cost­shar­ing ba­sis for the farm­ers, 200 wa­ter cour­ses have been im­proved in the cur­rent fis­cal year and 1,000 more will be im­proved, in­stal­la­tion sub­sidy will be pro­vided for 715 tube wells and drip ir­ri­ga­tion will be ap­plied to 5,000 acres of land. As part of the to­tal al­lo­ca­tion, 1,500 agri­cul­tural im­ple­ments will be pro­vided for the grow­ers at 50% sub­sidised rates for the pro­mo­tion of mech­a­nised farm­ing. About 18,000 hectares of land had been smoothened through bull­doz­ers up to March 2016 whereas 433 tube wells will be in­stalled at 50% sub­sidised rates in agri­cul­ture fields to utilise the ground­wa­ter.—Agen­cies

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