With a whopping Rs400 billion allocation for the Annual Development Programme in budget for the fiscal year 2015-2016, the government is focused on the Medium Term Development Framework (MTDF) and the Punjab Growth Strategy to overcome its under-utilised manufacturing capacity, stagnant exports, low productivity, underemployment and a difficult security situation. The idea is to achieve an 8 per cent economic growth rate by 2018.
The size of the ADP budget is around 16 per cent greater than the previous year’s allocation of Rs345 billion. Of the total allocation this year, Rs67 billion has been set aside for development interventions including 27 new initiatives.
The key targets government has set itself include 8 per cent growth, doubling private sector investment in the Punjab, creating a million new jobs each year, training two million workers in various skills by 2018, and increasing exports by 15 per cent each year.
The plans might appear solid on the face of it but, Tanveer Ashraf Kaira, Punjab finance minister during a PPP-PML-N coalition government, says the targets cannot be achieved in the stipulated time as the country’s economy has taken a downturn. He says the budget speech was more of a political stunt by the ruling party.
The largest portion of the ADP, Rs161.476 billion, which is 59.75 per cent of the total budget, has been allocated for the improvement of infrastructure with special focus on Rural Roads Programme for which, Rs52 billion has been allocated.
Other projects of importance include energy schemes for which Rs31 billion has been allocated – this includes a Rs15 billion allocation for the construction of 1,200-1,500MW RLNG-based power plants.
In the social sector, Rs119.179 billion has been allocated for development projects in education (Rs55.564 billion) and health (Rs30.725 billion). The government has allocated Rs32 billion for women empowerment initiatives.
Under the ADP, Rs24 billion has been set aside for water supply and sanitation projects. The Saaf Panni Programme – an initiative to provide safe drinking in rural areas – has an allocation of Rs11 billion.
The ADP includes Rs28 billion for improvement of transportation facilities and infrastructure. This includes Rs17 billion for the Multan Metro Bus project and Rs10 billion for the Lahore Orange Line Train.
Other allocations include Rs10.725 billion for the agriculture sector and Rs5.028 billion for the livestock sector. Another Rs35 billion has been allocated for the irrigation sector.
“The allocations for agriculture and livestock are low. Especially if we compare them to the budgets of the Orange Line and other Metro Bus projects,” Economist Maqsood Ahmad says.
Commenting on the budget for education, he says, though the allocation is impressive instead of constructing more Daanish Schools, the government could have paid more attention to renovating existing schools in dilapidated condition. “Improving existing schools could probably take up to three months, compared to constructing new ones which could take up to two years.”
The government is also looking to achieve the targeted growth through projects like the Greater Thal Canal Project Phase II, Khadim-i-Punjab Rural Roads Programme Phase I and II, RLNG-based power plants, and Potohar Climate Smart Irrigated Agriculture Programme to name a few.
However, Kaira says the 8 per cent growth target will remain a distant dream.
“You could set the target at 16 per cent... but we need to remember that we are a struggling nation. We do not have a booming economy like India which is growing at the rate Punjab envisions for itself.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2015.