Speakers at a post budget seminar on Tuesday criticised the Punjab government for allocating insufficient funds for various development schemes for health, education and women’s empowerment.
The speakers urged the provincial government to reassess its preferences. The seminar, organised by the Legislative Watch Programme of the Aurat Foundation, was titled, Critique on Provincial Budget: Challenges and Opportunities for Women.
With representatives from both the government and the opposition in attendance, the event started with a comparison of this year’s budget and the next year’s budget by Zohaib Marghoob.
Marghoob, an economic analyst and journalist, said that out of more than 2, 000 schemes which the Punjab government had put forward last year, 246 had been completed (56 in health and 190 in education).
With the education budget increased from approximately Rs78 billion for 2011-2012 to approximately Rs86 billion for 2012-2013, he said, it was essential to keep in mind how much of the budget was actually being utilised.
“Block allocations across the world are being discouraged,” he said, adding that its removal from the budget would pose a big challenge.
Marghoob said there were several projects that were under-funded by the provincial government, including projects to eliminate child and bonded labour, with fund allocation of approximately Rs30 million and Rs10 million, respectively.
He said in such a situation it was difficult to foresee Pakistan achieving the Millennium Development Goals. He regretted that funding for all women-related schemes by the Punjab government was less than that allocated for roads and transport.
PML-N MPA Arfa Khalid said that the budget was “balanced” and in keeping with the MDGs. She said the government had allocated a budget of Rs14 billion for women’s empowerment, hence “indicating its will to improve the condition of women in the province”. Khalid hinted towards the recent incident at the Punjab Assembly involving women parliamentarians physically and verbally abusing each other in the house.
“Women empowerment should not be misunderstood for misbehavior,” she said.
She said the 34-point Women’s Empowerment Package announced by the chief minister in March was an attempt to bring women of the province to the forefront. However, she, being a part of the sitting government, preferred not talking about the ‘challenges and opportunities’ for women in light of the new provincial budget.
PPP MPA Faiza Malik said the Punjab government had concentrated its efforts towards creating roads and transport infrastructure.
“Had this budget been equability divided among various projects and various parts of the province, it would have served us better,” she said.
She said despite women parliamentarians’ collaborative effort for the welfare of women at large, the government had allocated just Rs14 billion for women’s development which seemed like a “joke”. Malik claimed that the highest rate of crime against women was in the Punjab.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2012.
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