LAHORE: Punjab Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht said on Wednesday that the government was going to announce its five-year growth strategy next month.
The strategy would explain Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) priorities for the people of Pakistan and the party would also take steps to implement the growth strategy, said Bakht at the post-budget press conference. He said the provincial government would initiate the Rawalpindi Ring Road project, besides focusing on East-West Corridor infrastructure instead of the previously prioritised North-South Corridor.
The minister claimed that the best budget was presented by the PTI-led Punjab government with available resources and a surplus of Rs148 billion.
Justifying the drastic reduction in the Annual Development Plan of the province, which was slashed by 42% to Rs238 billion compared with Rs411 billion utilised in the previous fiscal year, Bakht said the government had presented the development budget for eight months.
The impact of curtailing the development budget on provincial growth and the overall economic growth of the country would be calculated in the growth strategy and minimised, he added.
The minister, however, put the blame on the previous government for a substantial increase of 23% in the non-development budget, mainly due to increase in salaries and pensions, which were never managed and pension payments grew from Rs17 billion to Rs208 billion. Commenting on taxation, he said all efforts were made to minimise the impact of taxes on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and startups “as the impact on them comes sooner, which sometimes also becomes a reason for the closure of businesses”.
Against the PTI’s claim of empowering the local government system, the budget allocation was reduced with increasing inflation.
Responding to that, Bakht said the government was working to dissolve the existing local government system in order to bring a system in which power would actually be passed on to the village council and local people. “In such a system, the local people are answerable, which improves service delivery,” the minister clarified.
Avoiding a question about allocation of resources for southern Punjab, the minister said out of four maternity hospitals, two each would be established in south and north Punjab.
“It will be visible to everyone that one-third of the development budget will be spent on south Punjab.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2018.