LAHORE: The Punjab government on Monday rolled out its Rs2,232.7 billion fiscally expansionary, growth budget for the next financial year that doles out massive funds for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf legislators for execution of development projects in their constituencies under the district development package, proposes launching of a universal health insurance scheme and implementation of infrastructure projects across Punjab.
The provincial government has increased the size of its development spending for the next fiscal by more than 66per cent to Rs560bn from the outgoing year`s Rs337bn to fund the three-year generous Rs360bn district development package that will be spent mostly on the schemes recommended by the PTI legislators to give their voters something to feel good about the economy before the next elections. Besides, the government has allocated Rs80bn for its health insurance scheme, covering the entire population of the province, which will be rolled out by the end of December, and Rs189bn for south Punjab development portfolio.
The expansionary budget presented by Punjab Finance Minister Makhdum Hashim Jawan Bakht amid loud shouts and hoots against the government by the combined opposition in the provincial assembly is in line with the federal strategy to give up its IMF-mandated, austere economic policies that have inflicted huge pain on the low-middle-income segments of the population over the past three years and push growth through public investments before the ruling PTI goes into the 2023 elections. The government hopes to support the poor, generate jobs and put a bit of disposable income in the pockets of people through its development stimulus.
A provincial planning and development department official confirmed to media that the District Development Package had been designed to mostly accommodate schemes recommended by the PTI members of the national and provincial assemblies from Punjab to please their constituents. `The scheme will however be submitted through the district administration, approved through normal process and executed by the line departments,` he said.
The fiscal stimulus will focus on socialsector(educationRs54.22bn, health Rs98.01bn, water supply and sanitation Rs18.76bn, local government/community development Rs26.63bn), infrastructure development (roads Rs58.29bn, irrigation Rs30.78bn, urban development Rs30bn, public buildings Rs19.28bn), and production sectors (agriculture Rs31.49bn, livestock and dairy development Rs5bn, forestry Rs4bn; industry 12.2bn).
The government has also announced a 10pc raise in pay and pension of all public servants and a 25pc special allowance for the financially distressed employees.It has also decided to continue the provincial tax relief of above Rs50bn announced in the budget for the current year to help businesses and consumers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The `flagship` initiatives announced by the finance minister include five mother & child healthcare hospitals, upgrade of 8,500 schools in the first phase and establishment of 19 universities. Besides, a sum of Rs86bn will be spent on rural water supply and sanitation schemes and Rs14.5bn put aside for emergencies and to combat the ef fects of the pandemic.
The province is expecting Rs1,683.70bn from the federal divisible pool as its share under the National Finance Commission (NFC) award based on the assumptions that the Federal Board of Revenue will successfully collect the targeted tax revenues of Rs5.83tn next year.