LAHORE: The Hamza Shahbaz-led Punjab government unveiled a Rs3.226 trillion budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 after a delay of two days as the initial sessions could not take place due to disagreements with the Opposition.
The budget was presented with much delay but at a different venue than the conventional one as the treasury and Opposition benches failed to reach a consensus over convening a session.
The Opposition and the government convened two separate sessions at the Punjab Assembly and the Aiwan-e-Iqbal, respectively. The former’s session started today but has been adjourned till 1pm tomorrow, while the ongoing session started after 4pm.
The Opposition’s session took place at the Punjab Assembly with speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in the chair. During the session, the Opposition lawmakers criticised the government and PML-N leader Attaullah Tarar — who had been asked to leave the Punjab Assembly two days back during the first session of the budget.
The Opposition was irked and demanded that the inspector-general and chief secretary be present during the session. As a result, the two sides could not develop a consensus over the issues.
‘Pro-poor and pro-development’
After a two-day-long delay, Finance Minister Punjab Sardar Awais Laghari unveiled the Rs3.226 trillion provincial budget, terming it a “pro-poor and pro-development budget”.
Presenting the budget proposals, which were earlier approved by the cabinet, Laghari criticised the previous PTI-led government, saying its policies stalled development in the province for the last three years.
“Data shows that during the period 2019-22, there has neither been a single development programme worth mentioning nor has the province witnessed any social welfare programme,” he said, blaming the PTI government for “wasting three years in framing false cases” against the opposition.
Recalling the last budget of the PML-N government for the fiscal year 2017-18, the provincial finance minister highlighted that at the time, the country’s GDP growth was rising at a steady pace and that the per capita income had reached $1,629.
He added that foreign investment was pouring in as Pakistan was declared an investment-safe country, the stock market was the second-best in Asia and international institutions were recognising Pakistan’s growth.
The provincial minister accused the PTI-led government of not paying attention to the energy issues which led to other problems, including unemployment, poverty, and inflation, among others.
Development, income, and expenditure
Divulging into the details of the budget, the finance minister said out of the total amount of the budget, it has been proposed to keep Rs1,712 billion for running expenditures while the total outlay of the development budget is Rs685 billion.
The income has been estimated at Rs2.521 trillion the finance minister said, adding that the province is expected to receive over Rs2.020 trillion from the federal divisible pool.
The finance minister said over Rs500 billion are expected to be collected under the head of provincial receipts — more than 24% in comparison with last year’s collection.
Laghari said the government, aiming for a 24% increase, has set the target of non-tax revenue at Rs163 billion.
He went on to add that under the chief minister’s relief package, Rs200 billion will be allocated for providing wheat at a cheaper rate to the masses. Laghari said that a 10kg wheat bag, which was earlier available at Rs650 could be bought at Rs490 now.
In addition to this, another relief package worth Rs142 billion has been proposed, including the selling of edible items at a lower cost, subsidised transport costs, and other facilities for farmers.
The total outlet of the development budget is Rs685 billion, out of which 40% will be spent on the social sector, 24% on infrastructure, 6% on production, 2% on the services sector, and 28% will be allocated for special measures.
Health and education
The finance minister added that the government has proposed 35% of the total Annual Development Programme for South Punjab and allocated Rs240 billion for several development projects.
For the health sector, the government has proposed Rs470 billion for the health sector, 27% higher than the previous year. The finance minister said that the incumbent government prioritises health and is restoring the free medical facility in public hospitals.
Laghari said 10% more budget as compared to the last year has been proposed for the education sector, which will amount to Rs485.26 billion. He said Rs428.56 billion have been proposed for the non-development budget and Rs56.70 billion for the development budget.
The finance minister said Rs421.6 billion have been proposed for the school education department, while Rs59.7 billion for the higher education department. Moreover, Rs1.52 billion have been proposed for special education and Rs3.59 billion for literacy and non-formal basic education.
Apart from this, the government has also proposed Rs1.5 billion for the provision of laptops to students.
Salaries, pensions, and wages
The finance minister added that the government has proposed an increase of 15% in the salaries of government employees and a rise of 5% in pensions.
A special allowance of 15% has also been proposed for the government employees of grades 1-19 in a bid to curtail the gap between inflation and the income rate, he said.
Laghari added the government has also proposed increasing the minimum wage of labourers from Rs20,000 to 25,000, while Rs435 billion have been proposed for salaries, Rs312 billion for pensions, and Rs528 billion for local governments.