THE Punjab Assembly continued a lacklustre debate on the provincial budget 2012-13 on Friday, the fourth day of the general debate on the budget, as majority of the members who had enlisted their names for participating in debate remained absent.
Besides, the members from both Treasury and Opposition benches avoided making relevant suggestions and analysis of the budgetary allocations but kept engaged in irrelevant criticism or praise of each other’s leaderships and criticism for mere point-scoring.
Speaker Rana Iqbal Khan, on several occasions, took notice of irrelevant criticism of the central political leadership and directed the members to refrain from targeting the opponent leaders with irrelevant and unsuitable criticism.
At the outset of the proceedings, the PPP’s Sajida Mir, on a point of order, praised and congratulated the federal government of her party on making a ‘substantial’ reduction in petrol prices which, she insisted, would bring the much needed ‘relief’ to the poor. However, she demanded that the Punjab government should also make an equal reduction in the prices of basic necessities, particularly the eatables like meat, pulses and rice.
Her suggestion irked the Treasury members who interjected to reply and claimed that the reduction in petrol prices was too small compared to the decrease in the world market and that price hike in essential commodities was due to the polices of the federal government, led by the PPP.
MMA’s parliamentary leader Ali Haider Noor Khan Niazi was scheduled to open the debate from the Opposition’s side but, in his absence, the debate was opened by Treasury’s Tanvir Ahmad Nasir who praised the PML-n leadership for presenting a balanced and tax-free budget, made some mentions to the unjust policies of the federal government which were badly affecting the provincial governments.
On the objections raised by the opposition benches, the Speaker asked him not to make unnecessary references to the federal government and confine his speech to budget only.
He also directed the press to avoid reporting unsuitable remarks against the political leaderships which the members were making while getting carried away with their emotions.
Tanvir Nasir said the green tractor scheme should not be confined to graduates only but should also extended to the less educated youth engaged in the agriculture sector. He also suggested setting up of fertilizer factories in Punjab to remove the shortage of urea and other fertilizers.
Opposition’s Rifat Sultana Dar suggested the Punjab government to provide Yellow pushcarts and Yellow bicycles in line with its Yellow cab scheme. She also demanded establishing Faisalabad bench of the Lahore High Court and suggested that both the federal and Punjab governments should jointly find solution to the power shortage and loadshedding. She criticized Punjab chief minister also for not implementing his announcement of building 200 small dams in Punjab to overcome power shortage.
The PML-Q’s Amna Ulfat said 43 percent of the development budget of the previous year remained unutilised. She claimed that the government had overstepped its allocations for non-development expenditures on its own luxuries and protocol. She said that first the government had established computer labs in educational institutes but instead of improving them it shifted the budget to the laptop scheme.
PML-Q’s Majida Zaidi praised her party’s previous government and said the present government had ignored the most important cause of improving the health and education sectors which badly lacked the basic facilities. She said that instead of setting up Danish Schools, basic facilities in 62,000 schools in the province should have been improved. She also mentioned the failed campaigns of the government in dengue virus, PIC medicine scam and fake drugs, and the deaths of infants in Services Hospital.
The PPP’s Saghira Islam said the PML-N government had drained public money on failed schemes like Sasti Roti, Green Tractor and Yellow cabs, Laptops and Food stamp scheme. She said Shahbaz Sharif would be remembered as the CM who made negative progress on providing basic facilities.
The PPP’s parliamentarian Nazim Hussain Shah termed the budget as jugglery of figures which had nothing to do with the temporary finance minister but was actually prepared by bureaucrats.
Treasury’s Rahila Khadim Hussian demanded that salaries of government employees should have been raised by 25 percent instead of 20 percent.
The Opposition’s senior parliamentarian Fauzia Behram said the budget had ignored the backward areas and focused the development of only Lahore which was a discrimination against the entire province. She criticized the government for ignoring health, education and agriculture sectors. She said the government had a history of not keeping up its budget promises and it was highly likely that it would do the same again this year.
Tahir Iqbal Chudhry, Imran Zafar and other members also participated in the debate till the House was adjourned for Monday.