KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that the city of Karachi was paying highest taxes to the federal government despite the fact its businessmen were being termed as `thieves’.
The small traders of Karachi are giving Rs36 billion tax to the Centre as against the small traders of Lahore, the second largest city of the country, who pay Rs700 million.
He said this on Saturday while speaking at the launching ceremony of Urban Spaces being Revitalized in Arts Council of Pakistan, which will facilitate emergent city needs by giving a platform for social integration of artists, intellects, students particularly youth and women, focusing on “fast, low cost & high impact” interventions here at Karachi Arts Council.
The programme was attended by Home Secretary and PD Karachi Neighborhood Improvement Project (KNIP), Qazi Kabir, President Arts Council Ahmed Shah, Team KNIP, senior officers of Sindh government, representative of the World Bank, citizens of Karachi, artists, Karachi-based leading businessmen and industrialists of the country and media personnel.
Addressing the businessmen and industrialists sitting in the gathering, the chief minister said in a light mood that he was happy that after politicians they were being branded as `thieves’. “This gives me immense pleasure that you have been brought in our ranks and the day is not far off when every citizen of this country would be branded as thief,” he said.
Shah, taunting the federal government, said that the businessmen of the city were not giving taxes. “Had you [businessmen] paid the taxes, the provincial government would have been given more funds by the federal government to develop this city further,” he said.
The chief minister said that he was thankful to the World Bank that it was assisting it to launch development works in the province. “At present around $2.5 billion development works are in progress in the city and one of them is Yellow Line BRT which will be started very soon,” he disclosed.
He said that the federal government in its budget books has reflected an allocation of Rs1.8 billion for provision of fire tenders to KMC. The federal government has shown an ample utilization against the allocation but the Mayor Karachi on his query told him that nothing had been provided to him.
Murad Ali Shah said that whenever he criticizes him [PM] he got him issued a notice and then the media friends start asking him when he would be arrested. “Neither you are doing work nor you let others work- this is the position,” he said and went on saying that every individual in the country was saying that the conditions [financial and political] were not good in the country.
The chief minister said that the prime minister of Pakistan was not ready to talk to him but he was engaging his [Sindh] chief secretary in his meeting almost every day. “This shows that he wants to run the country through bureaucracy approach by ignoring the political realities of the provinces,” he said.
The Chief Minister said that the Sindh government with the financial and technical support of the World Bank (WB) started a four-year Karachi Neighborhood Improvement Project (KNIP) in July 2017. He added that the purpose of the project was to enhance public spaces, urban roads infrastructure, mobility, inclusion, and access to the market in targeted neighborhoods such as Saddar, Malir and Korangi.
Components of projects: The chief minister said that there were three major components of the project. They include Public Space and Mobility Improvements in selected neighborhoods. Support to Improved Administrative Services & City Capacity Development and Support for Implementation and Technical Assistance.
The chief minister said that `Educational and Cultural Zone in Saddar’ was being overall renovated and rehabilitated. This includes Din Muhammad Wafai Road / Strachan Road, Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road and M.R. Kayani Road which formed a triangular boundary have been selected as sub-project area of the phase-1. He added that the total length of subproject roads was estimated 2.5 km. “A parking plaza has also been built to tackle the challenges of parking in one of the most crowded areas of the city- located at National Museum,” he said.
Shah said that besides this, the Art Council has been renovated to provide safe public spaces for promoting culture and art activities. “The Karachi Neighborhood Improvement Project working under P&D Department is undertaking projects for providing enhanced public spaces in targeted neighborhoods, improved urban road infrastructure to enhance mobility for access to important places, improve city’s capacity to provide selected administrative services,” he said.
The chief minister said that the World Bank on the request of the Sindh government carried out a Karachi City Diagnostic (KCD) to support provincial government for implementation of Karachi transformation strategy through short term and long-term engagements. “The Karachi City Diagnostic provides an overview of the challenges and opportunities facing the Karachi Metropolitan Region and estimates investment levels needed to bridge the infrastructure gap and improve the metropolitan region’s economic potential,”.
“The facility of Arts Council of Pakistan is revitalized in a way that external areas of arts council have been improved and urban space enhanced with soft and hard landscape to facilitate much more audience than it used to cater before, in order to support and platform art and cultural communities as a whole,” Shah said and added “the space is being used for many socio-cultural activities such as exhibition, musical nights and literary settings.”
The CM said that cafeteria and event space was enhanced through lights and landscaping elements like green belts, fountains to provide an amazing ambiance for the artists to perform and audience to enjoy. He added, “Semi covered/indoor event space for 100 persons (Gulrang) on the North , South courts yards, semi covered event space for exhibitions on ground floor of Manzar Hall substation has also been upgraded with two fountains, seating spaces, plantation, landscape features, lighting, ancillary facilities to support.”
Murad Ali Shah said that from socio-economic point of view, this project was based on the participatory approach; project involves the project affected persons, project beneficiaries and local community to get their interests and priorities.
PIU- KNIP has consulted with other experts and stakeholders by conducting various stakeholder workshops and meetings before and during the project execution, the chief minister said and added the at arts council, around 162,000 project beneficiaries have been counted from which the ratio of male and female was approximately 60 percent male (about 97,200) and 40 percent female (about 64,800) as casual visitors, artists and even participants. “Project beneficiary survey has also taken the local people where project related civil works are going on to get their views,” he said. He said the response from the community was optimistic and people were happy to see their area being developed.
Shah said that another component of KNIP that has today become a success story, is, ‘Single Window Facility’ for Sindh Building Control Authority to facilitate the automation of construction permits, under one roof. “The time required for construction permits has reduced from 45 days to 15 days. Ease of doing business Index Ranking of country has improved. SBCA with 60 percent weightage in the country has been one of the reasons for better ranking of country,” he said.
He said that the Sindh government has always been supportive for the initiatives that tend to enhance the rich culture of Karachi like the one KNIP has done in Arts Council precinct. “The intervention carried out in Arts Council precinct is not going to end here but will be continued in phase-II where open air theatre of Arts Council, a hub for theatre lovers will be rejuvenated,” he concluded.