MUZAFFARABAD: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir government on Monday presented its fiscal budget for the year 2018-19 with a historic outlay of Rs108.2 billion. Finance minister Dr Najeeb Naqi presented the budget in the house chaired by speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir.
With Rs25.2 billion allocated for development, the proposed budget shows a Rs2.3 billion increase in the same account against last fiscal year’s Rs23.27 billion. The government also proposed increased non-development expenditures that include higher salaries of government employees and pension of retired employees.
Moreover, the finance minister announced 10% increase in the basic salaries of government employees while retired employees or families are given 10% raise in pension. The budget further shows that Rs53.37 billion will be provided by the federal government for development projects executed by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs.
In his budget speech, Naqi told the house that it is the second historic budget being unveiled by the PML-N government since it came into power in 2016. The government, he said generously allocated funds for the development of Azad Jammu and Kashmir for which state government is especially thankful and indebted to PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Unveiling the breakdown of the budget, the finance minister said key capital spending allocations in the budget 2018-19 include Rs10. 38 billion for roads and communication, Rs1.9 billion allocated to provide electricity to the 90,000 people of Azad Kashmir.
The Power Development Organisation (PDO) will get Rs2.43 billion, Physical Planning and Housing will get Rs2.22 billion and Rehabilitation Department Rs100 million. The government, he said approved Rs130 million for the relief and rehabilitation of those affected by Indian firing.
The finance minister further said that Rs280 million are proposed to be spent on ongoing projects being executed by the commerce ministry, Rs150 million allocated for AJK TEVTA, Rs20 million for transport, Rs200 million for projects to be implemented by youth and culture ministry.
Furthermore, Naqi informed the House that Rs500 million have been allocated for the agriculture department, Rs550 million for the forests, wildlife and fisheries departments and Rs60 million for the Environment Protection Agency.
The government, he said also proposed to allocate Rs250 million for tourism related projects, Rs40 million for Press Information Department, Rs100 million for Social Welfare and Women Development Department.
“The Information Technology Board would be allowed to get Rs230.50 million”, he said while adding that Rs1.95 billion will go to education sector that include Rs1.35 billion for elementary and Rs600 million for higher education.
The finance minister also presented a revised budget for fiscal year 2017-18 with total outlay Rs96.28 billion. Shedding light on the estimated income during the next financial year, the minister told the house that Rs21.40 billion are expected to be generated from state resources, Rs1.11 billion 1 from the income of water use charges and around Rs12.80 billion from the taxes being collected by Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council. He also suggested that around Rs49 billion will be granted by the federal government as overdraft adjustment.
Earlier the AJK cabinet chaired by prime minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan approved the revised budget 2017-18 and estimated budget 2018-19.