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Skyrocketing transportation cost means people need mass transit system even more

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Skyrocketing transportation cost means people need mass transit system even more

Around three dozen people – both men and women – are constantly ignoring the repeated announcements and pleas made by multiple rickshaw and Chingchi drivers. They won’t pay any attention as they wait for feeder bus – the system run by the Punjab Masstransit Authority.

As soon as the bus – the smaller one with one exit only – arrives, they rush towards it, making it difficult for those intending to disembark and thus forcing them to yell “Wait a bit. First allow us to leave.” Moments later, all of them are able to leave the bus as new passengers pushed their peers to manage some space in the bus.

Meanwhile, one or two passengers standing right at the door are making it difficult for the driver to close the door, who is pleading on speaker to either move a step forward or board the next bus. However, no one listens to him. After repeated attempts, the driver is able to shut the door and the bus starts moving again.

It takes around well over a minute, although the time fixed for a stop is 15 seconds, but the high number of passengers exiting and entering the bus mean it is impossible for the driver to follow the rule.

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These scenes are a daily routine in Lahore – especially during rush hours – which has a limited number of feeder bus routes apart from two mass transit lines – Metrobus and Orange Line.

Most of these buses has two exits – one each for men and women compartments – but the smaller single-door buses are also in use on some routes.

However, the short story narrated in the abovementioned example is applicable to almost all routes and busy points – bus stops – as well as the Metrobus and Orange Line.

It’s inflation. The PMA’s integrated transport system is much cheaper than other modes of transport – Rs15 for one ride in case you have a card with additional Rs5 charged if you board one or two more bus(s) within one hour of exiting the previous one. It means your entire journey cost Rs15 or Rs20 or Rs25 only. The time is calculated when you validate the card for the second time while leaving the bus.

In case of cash, every passenger has to each Rs20 for each ride.

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The number of people availing the service is growing at a rapid rate just like the inflation as people not only want to have a respectable service but also save money amid the unprecedented financial crisis.

Integrated transport system is a must for any city as it enables people to reach shuttle between their homes and working place easily while saving both precious money and time. But with the rising prices of every daily-use item and service, more and more people have no choice but to opt for austerity and this system provides them the best opportunity.

The record-rise in petrol and diesel prices means a large chunk of your income is consumed by the transportation cost as the overwhelming majority can’t afford rickshaw and Chingchi or app-based services like Uber, Careem and inDrive.

Certainly, this system is a great refuge for the masses.

Lahore, the second-largest city in Pakistan, was supposed to have at least four mass transit lines and around 1,500 feeder buses with over 120 routes for the country’s first integrated transport system. But politics ruined everything.

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First came the delay in the Orange Line construction. It was politically motivated. As a result, the then Shehbaz Sharif-led Punjab government could neither launch the remaining mass transit lines or add to the feeder bus fleet. They even didn’t bother to introduce the planned feeder bus routes for Orange Line. No need to recall the entire episode. You know everything unless political bias affects your thinking.

The PTI tenure saw an intentional effort to destroy the system – no new mass transit line added, no new feeder bus imported. Even the existing Metrobus line has been neglected since then due to very little maintenance.

Zero expansion means the system can’t cater to the needs of the megacity. It urgently needs new mass transit lines and feeder buses to ensure expansion. Even the existing routes need reduced head time – the gap between the two buses leaving the starting point. Currently, it ranges from seven to 20 minutes for different routes.

The then PML-N government during its 2013-18 tenure failed to launch the feeder bus service in one go as the PMA opted for a phase-wise introduction. In simple words, the introduction of feeder buses had been made conditional to the construction of new mass transit lines – a move that makes no sense – while erstwhile Lahore Transport Company (LTC) was also shut down.

Obviously, the closer of LTC was necessary after the introduction of this integrated transport system. However, the foreign-educated managers of PMA failed to understand that they must at least replace the LTC buses and routes with the new feeder bus system while keeping expansion in mind.

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And this loophole was fully exploited by the PTI government.

Perhaps, one of the biggest jokes played with the people of Pakistan by the Musharraf regime was the introduction of Chingchi. Now these Chingchis are biggest source of noise pollution in urban centres.

This inflation phenomenon and the global warming have made the case for mass transit system in every city of Pakistan even more stronger. But we first have to disembark from Chingchi to even think about that.
 

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Budget 2024-25: Sindh announces up to 30pc increase in salaries

Budget 2024-25: Sindh announces up to 30pc increase in salaries

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Budget 2024-25: Sindh announces up to 30pc increase in salaries

The Sindh government has proposed up to 30 percent increase in salaries of its employees in the budget for next fiscal year 2024-25. 

Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, who also holds the portfolio of finance minister, presented the budget in the provincial assembly on Friday. 

He said the government had proposed 30pc increase in salaries of officials from Grade 1 to 6, adding that there was 25pc increase for officials of Grade 7 to 16. Similarly, officers from Grade 17 to 22 would get 22pc hike in their salaries. 

Furthermore, the provincial government has propsed 15pc increase in pension of the retired employees. 

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Presenting the budget with a total outlay of Rs3,352 billion, he said, the government had decided to allocate Rs959 billion for development projects.

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Rs37,000 minimum wage: Sindh follows in the footstep of federal govt, Punjab

Rs37,000 minimum wage: Sindh follows in the footstep of federal govt, Punjab

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Rs37,000 minimum wage: Sindh follows in the footstep of federal govt, Punjab

The Sindh government has revised the minimum wage for unskilled labourers to Rs37,000 in line with decisions of the federal and Punjab governments. 

The minimum salary has been increased by Rs5,000 as previously it stood at Rs32,000. The proposal was laid forth by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah while presenting the budget for the fiscal year 2024-25. 

Meanwhile, the Sindh government has proposed up to 30 percent increase in salaries of its employees in the budget for next fiscal year 2024-25. 

The chief minister said the government had proposed 30pc increase in salaries of officials from Grade 1 to 6, adding that there was 25pc increase for officials of Grade 7 to 16. Similarly, officers from Grade 17 to 22 would get 22pc hike in their salaries. 

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Furthermore, the provincial government has propsed 15pc increase in pension of the retired employees.

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Budget 2024-25: Let’s figure out the cost of essentials

Budget 2024-25: Let’s figure out the cost of essentials

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Budget 2024-25: Let's figure out the cost of essentials

The federal government has announced a staggering Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) worth Rs1,500 billion. 

According to the budget document, all federal divisions have been allocated budget, except the Poverty Alleviation and Special Safety Division, which deals directly with matters concerning 95 million people who are living in abject poverty. 

Sadly, the Poverty Alleviation and Special Safety Division gets nothing in the PSDP 2024-25. 

Worse still, the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety does not have any minister as its head, rendering it almost moribund for more than 10 months. Earlier, Dr Sania Nishtar was chairing it during the PTI government, followed by Shazia Marri during the PDM government. 

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Last year, 12.5 million people slipped into poverty, which took it from 34.2pc to 39.4pc, according to the World Bank. 

The government has conveniently ignored the poor in the budget. Other than announcing Rs598.71billion under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), no substantial amount has been earmarked for reducing poverty. 

Your next read: BUDGET 2024-25 – A LAYMAN’S GUIDE 

Analysts believe that 27 percent increase in BISP from Rs471.3 billion to Rs598.71 billion has been made to placate the Pakistan Peoples Party, which may take the wind out of PML-N’s sails anytime. 

BURGEONING TAXES 

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On the other hand, if we delve into the details of burgeoning taxes, Sales Tax stands out in afflicting the poor the most. 

Now a sales tax of 10pc will be charged on stationery items. 

Tribal area residents who have been experiencing extreme poverty will now have to pay 6pc tax on the supply and import of plant machinery as well as electricity on both residential and commercial connections. 

Following the similar trajectory, a 10pc sales tax will be charged on the local supply of vermicelli, buns, poultry feed, cattle feed, sunflower seed meal, newsprint, books, oil cakes and tractors. 

On mobile phones whose value is less than $500 (Rs139,240), 18pc tax has been imposed. If the value of purchased phone exceeds $500, an existing rate of 25pc will remain unchanged. 

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Earlier, the retailers of leather and textile products who paid 15pc sales tax will now have to pay 18pc tax. 

Drug prices will increase massively as the sales tax on raw materials used in production of pharmaceutical items has been raised to 18pc from 1pc. This will be applicable on medical treatment, diagnostic equipment, heart surgery, neurosurgery, electrophysiology, endoscopy, endosurgery, oncology, urology, gynaecology, disposables and other medical equipment.

Besides, 20pc sales tax on import of syringes, needles, catheters, cannulae, blood collection tube of glass and blood collection tube of PET.

Moreover, charitable hospitals with 50 or more beds will pay 18pc sales tax on imported medical goods. 

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