Punjab govt to present Rs 860bn budget today

Punjab govt to present Rs 860bn budget today
Punjab govt to present Rs 860bn budget today

LAHORE: The PML-N government in Punjab is all set today (Monday) to present budget for fiscal year 2013-14 with a total outlay of around Rs860 billion.

Around Rs260 billion have been reserved for development with special focus on schemes for youth, energy sector and the South Punjab.The revenue receipts for Punjab under the National Finance Commission (NFC) are expected to be around Rs650 billion, while the provincial receipts are estimated around 200 billion. Foreign grants would amount to around Rs20 billion.

The government is expected to announce 15 percent increase in the salary of public sector employees keeping in view the immense pressure. The CM secretariat’s expenditures are being decreased by 45 per cent and block allocations for launching a special health insurance scheme for citizens. Laptop schemes for125,000 students and teachers, yellow cab scheme, green tractor scheme, Ramazan subsidy package, Danish school and youth festival would get their due share in the budget.

The assembly session scheduled to begin at 4:30pm, will be presided over by Punjab Assembly speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal while Finance Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman will present the budget for the next fiscal year.According to sources, Rs260 billion are being allocated for development programmes as compared to last year’s Rs250 billion which were later curtailed to Rs210 billion with two cuts of 20 billion each. As per the recent announcement of the chief minister, the government would focus on education, health and energy with allocations of increased grants.

The budget would directly focus on power generation through alternative energy sources in the province with allocation of around Rs20 billion compared to last year Rs10 billion which remained mostly unutilised. Despite last year’s budget speech with special focus on energy, the provincial government could not deliver in energy sector as most of the funds were re-allocated to other schemes.The amount fixed for social development is more than Rs100 billion. Education and health will get about Rs35 and 40 billion respectively. Rs8 billion for agriculture and Rs100 billion for South Punjab.

Official sources said that with rising current spending and provincial taxes not moving fast enough, Punjab had to slash its development spending for the current fiscal year.The schemes initiated or continued during the FY 2012-13 will continue for the next fiscal year, including Ashiana Housing scheme, hospitals, rapid bus service for Baghbanpur side (Rs20 billion), laptops scheme Rs4 billion, yellow cabs, green tractor and other projects. Like in Lahore, Ashiana Housing Schemes will be initiated in several other cities as well, while rapid bus service will be launched in all major cities of Punjab including Faisalabad and Multan.

The provision of clean drinking water through installation of new water filter plants in rural as well as urban areas throughout the province would also be a budget priority.Sources said that this year too, some proposals were likely to be presented to devise a system for agricultural tax, though no agriculture levy is being imposed this year either.According to provincial finance department sources, the upcoming budget will be presented with a focus on poverty alleviation, end to power crisis, and promoting agro-economy.

The Punjab government has also decided to reduce non-development spending by at least 25 to 30 per cent, besides adopting strict austerity measures including cut in pays of provincial cabinet, a complete freeze on purchase of new vehicles as well as furniture for all provincial departments.Sources said in line with the federal government’s budget, the provincial government will focus on power production through cheaper means, including sugarcane bagasse at around 75 sugar mills, coal as well as hydel power.

A strategy would be adopted to generate local resources and reduce non-developmental spending by 25-30 percent and removal of non-feasible projects from the ADP.Education and provision of health service to the masses will also remain a major priority for the provincial government. The government will not only evolve annual budget for 2013-14 but will also prepare a five-year budget plan and around Rs500 billion will be pledged for education sector during the next five years.

As a short-term solution to energy crisis, fast track development of bagasse-based power generation projects will be implemented and initially 800-1000 MW electricity would be generated from sugarcane bagasse. Installation of small hydel power plants on canals and conversion of thermal power plants in the industry to coal-powered generation will be implemented as a long-term plan, they added.Special incentives would be given to private sector to invest for maximum utilisation of water and mineral resources in the province to speed up economic growth.

This budget is quite different from the previous ones, yet challenging for Punjab, because for the first time since the fiscal 2008 budget, Lahore and Islamabad are being governed by the same political party. For the past five years, the PML-N has been complaining that the problems in his province have been caused by an uncooperative federal government. Now that excuse no longer exists and the PML-N will be free to pursue its desired policies in Punjab, knowing that they have the full backing of Islamabad.The Punjab chief minister has called provincial cabinet today to take its approval before presenting the budget 2013-14 before the house. – DailyTimes