Punjab govt unveils Rs5446b budget with no new taxes

Finance minister says Rs842b allocation proposed for development in surplus budget 2024-25. Announces upto 25pc increase in salaries, 15pc raise in pensions. Rs10b being allocated for laptop scheme re-launch n Punjab Police get record Rs187b as non-development budget.

LAHORE   –   With a total outlay of Rs 5,446 billion, the Punjab government on Thursday presented a tax-free budget in the Punjab Assembly amid rumpus created by the Opposition.

Punjab Finance Minister Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman presented the budget for the year 2024-25 with the biggest-ever development package of Rs 842 billion besides a surplus budget of Rs 630 billion.

In line with the federal budget proposals, the Punjab finance minister announced to increase the salaries of provincial employees from Grade 1 to Grade 16 by 25 percent while those of Grade 17 to Grade 22 would be increased by 20percent. The Punjab government will also increase pensions by 15 percent, the minister told the House.

Mujtaba also announced that the Punjab government had proposed raising the minimum wage for workers from Rs 32,000 to Rs 37,000. The finance minister claimed that for the first time in history, the Punjab government had presented the largest budget ever which was tax-free. The development budget amounts to Rs 842 billion, and the Chief Minister’s Roshan Gharana Program is being launched at a cost of Rs 9.5 billion. In the first phase, consumers using 100 units will be provided with a complete solar system.

Opposition led by Ahmad Khan Bachhar created the usual rumpus in the House throughout the budget speech of the finance minister. Around two dozen opposition members surrounded the speaker’s dais as they kept chanting anti-government slogans tearing apart copies of the budget documents. Some four to five security guards stood close to the speaker’s chair to prevent any untoward incident. 

Also, the PPP, one of the major allies of the PML-N in Punjab and the Center, opted to stay away from the Assembly proceedings on Thursday. Ali Haider Gilani of the PPP told reporters outside the Assembly that the PPP had decided to boycott the budget session as it had reservations over the government’s lackluster response to the South Punjab Secretariat and some other issues. He, however, said that PPP would have its symbolic representation in the House during the budget speech with two members in attendance.

Such a move from the provincial chapter of the PPP was expected as its senior party leaders had not attend the National Assembly’s budget session the other day.  

Giving sector-wise break-up of the development budget in percentage, the finance minister told the House that 33 per cent would be expended on the social sector, 29 percent on infrastructure, 13 per cent on production sector and five per cent on services sector.

The Annual Development Plan (ADP) will include 77 new mega schemes as CM’s special initiatives. The budget sets a revenue target of Rs 960 billion for the current fiscal year against the previous year target of Rs 625 billion. The government intends to achieve the revenue target through mobilisation of its own fiscal resources. The government has allocated Rs 857.40 billion for the local governments as a one line budget for the new fiscal year. It has set aside Rs 669.74 billion for education, Rs 539.15billion for health and Rs 60.64 for agriculture sector.

The finance minister put the estimated income of the Punjab government during the fiscal year 2024-25 at Rs 4643.40 billion with Rs 3683.10 billion coming from the federal divisible pool under the NFC Award. The income under the provincial receipts has been estimated at Rs 960.30 billion with an addition of 54 per cent compared to the preceding year. The government expects to generate Rs 300 billion from the Punjab Revenue Authority with the addition of 25 percent compared to previous year. Similarly, the government expects to receive Rs 105 billion from the Board of Revenue and Rs 57 billion from the Excise department respectively. The government is expected to generate Rs 488.40 billion under the head of non-tax revenue.

The Apni Chhat Apna Ghar Program has been launched at a cost of Rs 10 billion.

Talking about the incentives given to the famers, the finance minister announced that Chief Minister’s Solarisation of Tube Wells Program will cost Rs 9 billion as 7,000 tube wells will be converted on solar energy. Farmers will be provided with interest-free tractors at a cost of Rs 30 billion.

Similarly, Model Agriculture Malls will be established at a cost of Rs 1.25 billion as loans worth Rs 75 billion rupees are being given to 500,000 farmers. The Livestock Card is being introduced at a cost of Rs 2 billion.  Agriculture Shrimp Farming will start at a cost of Rs 8 billion and a Model Fish Market will be established in Lahore at a cost of Rs 5 billion.

The Chief Minister’s District SDGs Program, costing Rs 80 billion would be launched to meet development needs at the district level. The finance minister also informed the House about infrastructure development. Giving details, he said that for the construction and maintenance of 2,380 kilometers of roads, Rs 296 billion have been allocated, whereas Rs 135 billion have been set aside for the repair and maintenance of old and dilapidated roads under 482 schemes.  

In the new fiscal year, the government also intends to introduce an undergraduate scholarship program costing Rs 2.5 billion and the Chief Minister’s Skilled Program to promote the textile industry at a cost of RS 2.97 billion. To increase foreign exchange, the first Garment City in Punjab is being established at a cost of 3 billion rupees, and the major project of Khelta Punjab will be launched at a cost of 7 billion rupees.

Additionally, a major project costing Rs 6.5 billion will be initiated for the restoration and construction of existing sports facilities across Punjab in the next fiscal year.

The finance minister said that the dream of Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz for Digital Punjab is rapidly becoming a reality. In a short period of three months, the foundation of Pakistan’s first Nawaz Sharif IT City has been laid in Lahore. Easy access to the internet is a fundamental component of the Digital Punjab project.

By fulfilling the promise, free Wi-Fi has been initiated at several locations in Lahore, and it is being extended to other districts of Punjab. The CM Punjab Laptop Scheme is being restarted at a cost of 10 billion rupees. Young people will make their mark in the IT world, and a laptop looks better in their hands than petrol.

An Autism State-of-the-Art School will be established in Lahore at a cost of 67 million rupees.

For the mental and physical development of children, the Chief Minister Schools Meal Program will be launched at a cost of Rs 01 billion, and daycare centers will be established for working women across Punjab at a cost of 1 billion rupees.

The Chief Minister Himmat Card Program for disabled individuals will be launched at a cost of 2 billion rupees. The Chief Minister Skill Development Program for the transgender community will begin at a cost of 1 billion rupees. To promote the welfare of minorities, the Minority Development Fund will be established at a cost of Rs 2.5 billion and the Nawaz Sharif Institute of Cancer Treatment and Research will be established in Lahore at a cost of 56 billion rupees. Nawaz Sharif Institute of Cardiology will be established in Sargodha at a cost of 8.84 billion rupees. An air ambulance service will be started at a cost of 450 million rupees. The Clinic on Wheels project will be launched at a cost of 1 billion rupees, under which 200 ambulances will be activated.

Also, the Punjab government allocated Rs. 187.365 billion as non-development budget for Punjab police in the budget for the financial year 2024-25.

According to the budget document, issued here on Thursday, out of Rs. 187.365 billion, employees related expenses will be Rs. 156.259 billion, including Rs. 71.407 billion for pay and Rs. 84.851 billion for allowances.

While Rs. 20.254 billion had been allocated for operating expenses, Rs. 1.240 billion for employees’ retirement benefits, Rs. 3.888 billion for grant subsidies and written-off loans, Rs. 315 million for transfers, Rs. 2.209 billion for physical assets and Rs. 3.180 billion for repair and maintenance.

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