LAHORE, (APP): Punjab Budget 2016-17: How Social sector development remains key focus
Punjab Finance Minister Dr. Aisha Ghous Pasha said on Tuesday that Punjab government would spend a hefty grant of Rs 804 billion on social sector which included Education, Health, Agriculture , Clean Drinking Water, and Law and Order during financial year 2016-17.
Addressing the post-budget conference here at 90 Shahra Quaid-i-Azam, she said that Punjab budget was not mere a number game but strategic thinking of the government, as it provided a comprehensive and well-coordinated economic growth strategy. Next fiscal year's Annual Development Programme (ADP) would largely encourage investment by private sector, while a comprehensive policy reforms would be initiated to ensure optimum impact of government’s spending on provincial economy.
Provincial Ministers Rana Sana Ullah, Dr. Farrukh Javed, Begum Zakia Shah Nawaz and Rana Muhammad Arshad, and Punjab government Spokesman Syed Zaeem Hussain Qadri, Punjab P&D Chairman Jahanzeb Khan, Punjab Revenue Authority (PRA) Chairman Dr. Raheel Siddiqui also accompanied the finance minister.
Provincial Finance Minister Dr. Aisha Ghous Pasha termed the budget 2016-17 as balanced and public-welfare budget having total outlay of Rs 1681.41 billion with Rs 550 billion Annual Development Programme (ADP).
The government was putting ADP budget in sectors which encouraged private sector for investment in various projects, and ensured inclusive growth in Punjab, she maintained.
Responding to journalists queries, the Finance Minster said the government would not put any burden on the existing taxpayers but bring the untaxed and under-taxed sectors into tax regime to broaden tax base.
The effective government policies, she mentioned, resulted in 20 percent additional tax collection, adding that tax culture was being promoted in the province through ease of tax collection, transparency and accountability.
To another query, she said that all the projects in Punjab had been initiated after due diligence and proper approval from the competent authority and no any project was completed or being executed in violation of prescribed rules and regulations.
To another question, Dr. Aisaha Ghous said that net hydel profit was the ultimate right of Punjab, and matters pertaining to ensure smooth payment of hydel royalty were being discussed with federal government.
Responding to a Reporter's query, the minister said that total loan of Punjab was Rs 533 billion i.e. three percent of the provincial economy. She explained that out these loans, 95.2 percent was foreign loan taken on as low as 1.38 percent interest rate on average, while remaining 4.8 percent was domestic loans.
Punjab Finance Minister asserted that government borrowings from IMF , World Bank and other international financial institutions had been spent solely on projects, which help increase size of economy and productivity of the province.
To another question, she said that agriculture sector having greater linkage with industry and other sectors; had key importance for economic turnaround.
Therefore, the government had announced Rs 100 billion Special Agricultural Package to be executed in two years; and Rs 50 billion would be set aside for this purpose in FY 2016-17, she maintained. Punjab government is allocating a total of Rs 147 billion for agriculture and its allied sectors of Irrigation, livestock, forests, fisheries and food.
In an effort to achieve economic growth strategy, she said the government did not reduce or abolish the development budget and facilities for various sectors but evolved a mechanism for employment creation for economic growth, asserting that Rs 550 billion ADP would result in creation of 500,000 new employment opportunities in the province.
The minister mentioned that as compare to current FY, the Education sector development allocation would be 47 percent up, School Education 71 percent, Health 62 percent, Clean Drinking Water 88 percent, Law and Order 48 percent, and 47 increase each in sectors of Agriculture , Irrigation, Livestock, Forests, Fisheries and Food in the upcoming financial year.
Under Punjab Chief Minister's vision of 'Parho Punjab; Barho Punjab', revolutionary steps are being taken in Education sector to bring education at par with international standard and 100 percent enrolment of children in schools; IT labs in schools and merit scholarships for brilliant students.
She mentioned that Rs 312 billion has been proposed for Education Sector with greater focus on School Education. A grant of Rs 5 billion would be spent on provision of basic facilities in 6511 schools; Rs 60.50 billion for renovation and repair of 2664 schools. While a comprehensive programme of Strengthening of Schools would be initiated with an estimated cost of Rs 50 billion. This programme would focus on repair of dilapidated school buildings, construction of 36,000 classrooms in primary schools and provision of missing facilities. British institution DFID has also promised to construct 11,000 out of 36,000 classrooms with a cost of Rs 17.60 billion.
On the instruction of Chief Minister, the monthly stipend of Rs 200 for girl students of class 6 to 10 in far-flung areas especially southern Punjab has been increased up to Rs 1000, and this initiative would facilitate 400,000 girl students.
Dr. Aisha said that 1.9 million male and female students in private schools were getting education on government expense, and for this purpose Punjab Education Foundation would be provided Rs 12 billion in FY 2016-17 by extended students target up to 2.2 million. Punjab Endowment Fund's annual contribution would also be doubled from Rs 2 billion to Rs 4 billion and the Fund volume would reach up to Rs 20 billion and number of students drawing stipend from this Fund would increase to 200,000 from existing 150,000.
The minister said that Health sector would be given Rs 207.3 billion and the government would take drastic steps to ensure provision of best health and medical facilities to the rural population so that they would not have to come to big cities for their treatment. New projects and initiatives are being introduced in Primary and Secondary Health Care, under which, all DHQ hospitals and 15 major THQ hospitals would be revamped by establishing units of physiotherapy, burn, dental and ICUs, and computerization of Electronic Medical Record Diagnostic system.
Punjab government has also initiated Punjab Saaf Pani Programme and in its first phase Rs 21 billion would be spent to provide clean drinking water to 23 million populations living in 35 tehsils of ten districts.
For this project, she said, Rs 30 billion has been proposed.
Punjab Finance Minister told the house that PML-N governments at federal and provincial level were utilizing all sources of energy i.e. coal, gas, solar, hydel and wind. At present, various power projects were being executed speedily at public and private sector level, and 6545MW power projects are at various stages of completion in the private sector, while the government has started work on three gas-operated power plants of accumulative generation capacity of 3600MW. Punjab government , she added, would provide resources for completion of 16 energy projects during next fiscal year.
The government has proposed Rs 130.28 billion for infrastructural development projects, which include roads and bridges of major and small cities of the province. Similarly, industrial infrastructural development is also being focused and under a comprehensive planning, industrial zones were being established in big cities which would create one million new jobs.