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June 15, 2019

Rs2.305tr Punjab budget presented

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June 15, 2019

LAHORE: Punjab Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht presented Rs2.305 trillion Punjab budget on the strength of additional Rs404 billion from, federal divisible pool, enhancing the development budget to Rs350 billion and has earmarked a surplus of Rs232.9 billion at federal government’s request.

The Punjab government increased the pension in line with the announcement made by the federal government. The pensioners and employees from grade 1 to 16 will get a raise of 10 percent; grade 17-20 will be entitled to increase of 5 percent in pay. However, for police employees a commission has been formed that would recommend the increase. The current revenue budget has been increased by 2.7 percent to Rs1,298.8 billion for 2018-19. The provincial minister termed this increase austerity. Increase in expenses cannot be termed austerity. The federal government reduced its current expenditure by 5 percent that classifies under austerity.

The budget speech related only to the incentives provided by the government but did not disclose the new taxes imposed in the budget though many services, including doctors, beauty parlours have been brought under service tax. The budget document disclosed that the province would generate own revenue of Rs388.4 billion against Rs268 billion generated in 2018-19. In the ongoing year, this government missed provincial revenue target by about Rs100 billion. However, this time many new taxes have been slapped on commercial enterprises and other services that might jack up its revenues. It is worth noting that provinces are not pushed to increase their revenues as they get over 80 percent of the receipts from the federal government through divisible pool and federal transfers. However, these federal receipts are subject to achievement of revenue targets by the federal government.

The Punjab government kept Rs150 billion surplus on the request of federal government but as it received lower amount the surplus did not exist. The surplus in Punjab budget is again subject to achievement of tax revenue target at federal level.

He claimed that the Punjab government has allocated highest ever amount of Rs279 billion for the health sector. The provincial government would spend Rs40 billion to build nine modern hospitals in differentcities of the province; these include Lahore, DG Khan, Rajanpur, Layyah, Mianwali, Rawalpindi, Rahim Yar Khan, and Bahawalpur. The Sehat cards would be provided in the 36 districts of Punjab for which Rs2 billion has been allocated. The allocation for education has been enhanced to Rs383 billion. Six new universities would be established in under-developed regions, including Baba Guru Nanak University in Nankana Sahib; while 63 under construction colleges in Punjab would be completed this year.

The Punjab government would provide Rs20,00 per month each to 150,000 persons aged 65 years or above. It has earmarked Rs3 billion in the budget. The provincial government has also allocated Rs2 billion for providing Rs2,000 monthly to widows and orphans. For handicaps and their families a sum of Rs3.5 billion has been allocated to provide Rs2,000 per month to 20,000 persons/families. For the welfare of transgender Rs200 million have been reserved. The Punjab government is also starting a five-year programme worth Rs7 billion to bring women into economic mainstream. An amount of Rs300 million has been allocated for the victims of terrorist attacks. Saaf Pani scheme will get Rs7 billion under which clean water plants would be established in remote rural areas.

The South Punjab region will get higher share than its population in the development budget which is 35 percent of the total development outlay of province. This amount would not be diverted to any other region or project. For agriculture Rs40.7 billion have been earmarked. For subsidies on seed, fertiliser, e credit and crop insurance a sum of Rs7.85 billion has been allocated. An amount of Rs3.43 billion has been reserved for planting 550 million saplings in the province. The provincial government intends to upgrade Allama Iqbal Industrial City Faisalabad at a cost of Rs23 billion.

Punjab Finance Minister announced that the provincial government intended to start construction of 170,000 low cost homes under Prime Ministers scheme of 5 million houses. He did not elaborate the financing source for these projects.

The concept of public-private partnership is being reintroduced in the province for which Rs42 billion have been earmarked. Under the PPP, mode 14 major highways would be upgraded. These include Lai Nullah Express way and Rawalpindi Ring Road.

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