The Punjab government presented a budget outlay of Rs 1.45 trillion at the 15th session of the Punjab Assembly on Friday for the fiscal year (FY) 2015-16.
Provincial revenue during FY15-16 is expected to be Rs 256 billion while Rs 888.5 billion will be received by the province as its share of the National Finance Commission (NFC) award.
Over Rs 400 billion has been allocated to development, Rs 290 billion to education, Rs 800 billion to non-development expenditure, Rs 31 billion to the power sector, Rs 119 b to the social sector, Rs 5 b to roads and Rs 39 b to the services sector.
During her budget speech, first female finance minister Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha said, as per the vision of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the Economic Growth Strategy has been drafted and its main targets are to increase the economic growth of the province from 7 per cent to 8 per cent by 2018, create 10,000 jobs for the youth annually, double the private investment in the province by 2018, eliminate terrorism to ensure protection of life and property of the citizens and bringing the exports percentage to 15 per cent.
Stating education to be one of the government’s top priorities, Pasha said that Rs 310 billion is being allocated which is 27 per cent of the total budget.
“Rs 168 billion have been allocated for health sector which is 14 percent of the total budget,” she said while shedding light on government’s top spending for FY15-16.
She added that for the progress of rural community and the promotion of agriculture sector more than 144 billion rupees has been allocated which is 12.5 percent of the total budget.
Pasha said, “Rs 109 billion would be spent for marinating law and order in the province which is 9.5 percent of the total budget.”
She said that other than terrorism the load shedding crisis is the most important issue of Pakistan and to rid the masses of energy crisis and improve the production of electricity, projects worth Rs 618 billion are in progress at the federal and provincial level collectively.
“The government is investing Rs 258 billion in the power projects while rest of the amount i.e. Rs 360 billion will be invested by China,” the finance minister said.
“We have started working on a power generation house in Sahiwal which would produce 1,300 megawatts electricity using coal and will cost the provincial exchequer Rs 180 billion,” she said.
She added that 900 megawatts project initiated at Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park would cost approximately Rs 135 billion, adding, “This project would not only generate economic activities but it will also generate jobs in the industry and agriculture sector in South Punjab.”
Pasha further said that the government is starting 300 megawatts project in Pind Dadan Khan worth Rs 45 billion which will use the coal for the electricity production.
She predicted that by the end of 2017, all of these three projects would start generating 2,620 megawatts of electricity.
She added that the government is also trying to attract the private sector to invest in power generation. “Six projects of coal power plants with the capacity of 900 megawatts would be given to the private sector,” said Pasha.
She added that 50 sites for producing electricity were presented to the private sector in which the investors had shown interest.
Dr Pasha added that Rs 52 billion have been allocated for the building of new roads from farms to markets to facilitate transportation of agricultural products.
“Another Rs 21b have been set aside for the improvement of irrigation systems under the Punjab Irrigated Agricultural Productivity Improvement Project, in which 120,000 acres will be irrigated through drip sprinklers and 7,000 water courses will be renovated ─ for which Rs4.98billion have been allocated,” she said.
She added that government will also spend the money to improve the condition of barrages. “Rs.12.68billion would be spent for the infrastructural improvement of Jinnah Barrage which will be completed next year,” said Pasha.
Pasha said that the Punjab government has allocated Rs 2.17 billion for the development of iron and copper deposits, specifically in Chiniot-Rajwa area.
Pasha said that two model cattle markets had been established in Shiekhupura and Faisalabad and the fees of the cattle markets had been waved off since July 2014 and now these markets are being established by the management companies formed at divisional level.
Safe drinking water:
In the next three years, Dr Pasha said, the government will be able to provide clean and safe drinking water to more than 40 million people living in the villages.
“We have allocated Rs 11 billion for this project for the FY 2015-16,” she said.
Dr Pasha said that 500 new schools will be set up throughout the province whereas missing facilities would be provided in 7,500 school buildings, 7,500 will be reconstructed and computer labs will be established in 990 high schools using the development budget.
She said that new class rooms and laboratories would be established in colleges for promotion of higher education whereas 24,500 new rooms would be built in schools of Punjab.
The finance minister said that the government has allocated Rs 10.82 billion for the availability of medicines in the provincial hospitals.
“We are starting the health insurance scheme for the poorest of the poor to provide them with the health cover for which initially 8 districts had been included for which the government has allocated Rs 2.5 billion,” she said.
The government has also allocated Rs 1 billion for the extension of Recep Tayyip Erdogan hospital constructed in Muzaffargarh with the help of the Turkish government.
Another Rs 1 billion were allocated for the extension of Mobile Health Unit project for providing better health facilities to the people living in the far flung areas.
“The government has also approved 8,500 more vacancies in different hospitals of the province,” she added.
Addressing lack of kidney and liver transplant facilities, she said the government is establishing a state of the art Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute and Research Centre for which Rs 3 billion has been allocated for the FY 2015-16.
Dr Pasha said that a total of Rs 119 b has been allocated to the social sector for the FY15-16.
“The chief minister’s Rozgar Scheme which provides interest-free loans up to Rs 50,000 to poor people has been allocated Rs 2 billion,” she elaborated, adding that the Punjab Social Protection Authority will launch its first project worth Rs 2 billion in FY15-16.
“Rs 1 billion has been allocated for minorities over the coming fiscal year,” said Pasha.
She added that the construction of Child Protection Institute in Rahim Yar Khan will be completed this year while another two such protection institutes will be constructed in Bahawalpur and Sahiwal costing Rs260 million.
For the labours and their families, the government has started 126 beds maternity and child health centre in Faisalabad and 50 beds each social security hospitals in Rahim Yar Khan and Jhang, she added.
The Punjab Educational Foundation will be allocated a proposed amount of Rs 10.5 b for the FY15-16 to fund the education of lesser-privileged children wishing to study at private schools free of cost, said Pasha.
She added that 50,000 vehicles will be distributed amongst the youth of the province under Apna Rozgar Scheme incurring a cost of Rs 31 billion.
“In this scheme, an additional quota of 10 percent has been allocated for South Punjab. The mark-up on the cars will be paid by the government and the selection will be made on merit using draw on computer,” she said, adding that the government will provide a subsidy of Rs6.37 billion for the project.
She added that Rs 94.78 billion has been allocated for providing state of the art training to police, improved policing and provision of latest weapons and gadgetry to nab the criminals.
To provide relief to small businessman in sales tax, the finance minister said that the government has decided to introduce reduced rate tax for a specific period in 12 sectors.
“During the implementation of this scheme instead of 16 percent flat tax, a tax varying between 2-10 percent would be charged,” she added.
In a bid to improve tax collection system, Punjab Revenue Authority will be introducing Restaurant Invoice Monitoring System, she said.
Dr Pasha said that the government has decided to increase the salaries and pension of government servants by 7.5 percent and to make the adhoc relief allowances given in 2011 and 2012 part of their basic salaries.
“The medical allowances of the government servants is also increased by 25 percent,” said Dr Pasha. The increase of medical allowance will also be extended to the pensioners, she added.
She said that the government has also decided to increase the minimum monthly wage from Rs 12,000 to Rs 13,000 rupees.
She concluded saying that the budget is people friendly and balanced.
Earlier, the opposition parties protested outside the assembly by wearing black ribbons on their arms. “We are protesting against the discrimination of the government which has not released the funds to opposition members in the last two years,” Punjab Opposition Leader Mehmoodur Rasheed told Pakistan Today.
Throughout the budget speech PTI lawmakers chanted slogan against the government stating that they were liars.