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Enhancement of funds for women uplift stressed

KARACHI, July 4: Expressing their dissatisfaction over the allocation made in the budget 2008-09 for women development, members of civil society have stressed the need for more funding for the uplift of women.

They were speaking at a meeting on “provincial budget analysis from gender perspective” organised by the Aurat Foundation on Friday.

The rights activists were of the view that keeping in view the issues faced by women the allocations were inadequate and apart from that budgetary cuts were also usually exercised on the women-related funding.

Giving details of the budgetary allocations, an official of the provincial finance department, Tariq Shah, said that women comprising almost 50 per cent of the population would equally benefit from all the funds being spent on the development sector and schemes, however, in addition to that over Rs172 million would be spent exclusively on women-related issues through the ongoing as well as new development schemes initiated by the women development department during the current year.

He said that out of the Rs172 million over Rs110 million would be spent on the 11 ongoing schemes (total cost of which was over Rs1.7 billion), while the remaining funds would be utilised in five new scheme.

Earlier in their budget analyses, Naushaba Khan and Mohammad Sabir of the Social Policy Development Center pointing out the incentives being offered to the womenfolk said that raising the ceiling of income tax for women was a good step taken by the government, however, they added, reduction in subsidises would hurt everybody financially.

They said that the introduction of Benazir Income Support programme, food support through utility stores, micro-financing, low-cost housing, training programmes for the youth, etc were also commendable initiatives.

MPA Humaira Alwani of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) said that despite financial constraints, which were the result of economic mismanagement of the previous government, more funds had been allocated for women and the quota for women in recruitments was also being enhanced.

She said that it would be ensured that whatever was being allocated was spent during the year and did not lapse. She hoped more funding would be provided next year and efforts would be made to abolish discriminatory laws.

MPA Marvi Rashidi of the Pakistan Muslim League (F) deplored that allocation of funds for the health and education sectors was not sufficient.

She also called for the announcement of a just NFC award taking into consideration the ground realities to ensure that the deprived provinces got enhanced shares

The PML-F legislator said that the relevant authorities should ensure the quality of the commodities being provided through the Utility Stores at government rates.

Senior journalist Sabihuddin Ghausi said that budget was a political document through which the government showed its priorities and during the past 60 years bulk of the budget had been spent on defence and debt servicing and development sectors like health, education, etc had always got the leftovers.

He said that the government had not yet succeeded in ensuring that all the women could caste their votes in the elections or even marry of their free will, which were their basic rights. Girl schools and skill development centers were being burnt, he said, adding that society could not progress if over half of its population was oppressed and was not allowed to play its due role.

MPA Zarin Majeed of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) said that the recently announced budget could not be termed a poor-friendly budget as the rich had been given incentives, while the poor would have to pay more through indirect taxes. She said that poor rural women were exploited even more than their urban counterparts.

Nargis Rehman said that subsidies on food items should be provided so that the poor could make both ends meet.
Source: Dawn
Date:7/5/2008

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