–Southern districts given more share in education, sports, health, infrastructures, agriculture, livestock, resource development
-Launch of ‘Agri Smart Card’ to ensure direct benefits to the farmers on the cards
LAHORE: Provincial Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakhat on Saturday said that equal development across Punjab, social protection and human resource development were the pivot of the provincial budget 2019-20.
He was addressing a post-budget press conference and was accompanied by Punjab Finance Secretary Abdullah Khan Sumbal, Special Secretary Finance Mujahid Sher Dil, Punjab Revenue Authority’s Chairman Javed Ahmed and other high-ups of relevant departments also accompanied the provincial finance minister.
“The budget 2019-20 is based on the Punjab Growth Strategy 2018-23. We have tried our best that budget document ensures a bright future of the people of Punjab instead of mere jugglery of figures,” provincial finance minister vowed.
To a question, Bakhat replied that south Punjab comprising 32 per cent of the province’s population had been receiving an average 17 per cent of developmental funds for the last seven years. Such practices had weakened the economic indicators of that part of the province and elevated the poverty ratio.
That is why, he argued, the present government allocated 35 per cent of the Annual Development Programme (ADP) for the fiscal year 2019-20 for southern Punjab districts enabling them to come up at par with other developed areas of the province, he said.
Similarly, he continued, southern districts had also been given more share in sector-wise allocations i.e. school education 53 per cent, sports 40 per cent, health 39 per cent, roads infrastructures 41 per cent, agriculture 48 per cent, livestock 76 per cent and resource development 60 per cent.
The Punjab finance minister told that nine new hospitals would be constructed in deprived districts of Layyah, Mianwali, Rahim Yar Khan, Rawalpindi, Bahawalpur, D.G.Khan, Multan and Rajanpur.
Responding to another query, he said the present government adopted the strategy that would end the problem of price-hike and dearness.
“You often say, don’t talk of the past but you must ponder over that why we are facing such problems today. The nations, which do not learn from the past, never advance further. We had two options whether to make grounds for winning next elections by concentrating on five years planning only, as had been done in the past, or opt the difficult way by taking corrective measures to put the economy on the right track that ensure far-reaching results for economic stability. We have opted for the second choice which seems very difficult today but guarantees a brighter future,” he maintained.
Regarding out of school children, he said that the education sector comprising was being given Rs39.3 billion development budget, asserting that innovative measures were being taken by using the existing resources and infrastructure, and evening shift in educational institutions has been initiated under the ‘Insaf School Programme’ that would help increase literacy rate.
To a question about an increase in the Chief Minister Office’s expenditures despite austerity claims, the minister clarified that since the CM Office’s budget consisted of various components and after the slashing the staff salary component, all other allowances had been reduced substantially.
For instance, entertainment allowance had been cut from Rs110 million to Rs30 million only, and the chief minister also made a massive cut in his discretionary allowances/funds.
Bakht said that soon after coming into power, Prime Minister Imran Khan and his entire team had started austerity drive all on their own and most recently, the federal cabinet had cut 10 per cent of their salaries voluntarily, while the armed forces did not seek an increase in their expenditures either.
“Similarly, the Punjab chief minister and his cabinet also reduced their salaries and other expenditures,” he added.
Continuing firmly with the austerity drive, he said, the current expenditures had been increased by 2.7 per cent only in the budget 2019-20, which was the lowest increase on this count in the history of Punjab. Like the current fiscal year, a sum of Rs233 billion was being set aside as surplus in the FY 2019-20 that would not only help reduce national budget deficit but would also be available for achieving the revenue target of the next fiscal year.
He said that the Punjab government focused on public-private partnership in roads and infrastructure because it could generate more revenues, adding that a sum of Rs8.9 billion had been set aside for the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project.
He said that Punjab Mass Transit Authority (PMTA) had also been directed to not put the entire burden on the passengers while determining the fares but generate own revenues through other sources by outsourcing bus stops/tracks by placing advertisement boards etc.
The agriculture sector would get Rs15.5 billion (with over 100 per cent increase as compared to current FY) for developmental projects and out this allocation, a sum of Rs7.85 billion would be spent on seed and fertilizer subsidy, e-credit and crops insurance.
Model auction markets would also be established so that growers could get a proper price of their agri produces. Additionally, the ‘Agri Smart Card’ would also be launched to ensure direct benefits to the farmers.
“The industrial sector has a key role in the economic stability and employment creation that is why the provincial government has revived the sick industrial units as well as decided to establish new industrial centres and special economic zones in various parts of the province,” he said while adding that effective steps were also being taken for ease of doing business such as Business Registration Portal facilitating the businessmen, who now get register their businesses online instead of running from pillar to post to complete this task.
“The government was all committed to getting optimum benefits from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and for this purpose, comprehensive and effective measures were being taken on all relevant fronts,” he concluded.