Development in focus with Rs 635bn allocation.
Salaries, pension up by 10%.
Government to issue Rs 25bn investment bonds.
Orange Cab, Hand-Tap schemes to be launched.
Punjab Finance Minister Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha on Friday presented Rs 1.97 trillion tax-free annual budget of fiscal year 2017-18, with a huge amount of Rs 635 billion set aside for development projects in the province.
The finance minister said that the budget for the next fiscal year had the largest development program amounting to Rs 635 billion, adding that it was unprecedented in the country’s history among all the provinces. The development budget is 15% higher than the outgoing fiscal year, she said.
Presenting the budgetary proposals, the finance minister announced a 10% increase in salaries of public servants as well as pensions of the retired employees, with minimum wages fixed at Rs 15,000 per month. The government has earmarked an amount of Rs 111 billion for health sector, an increase of 58.4% in allocation as Rs 70.06 billion had been set aside in the outgoing fiscal year. An amount of Rs 20.4126 billion has been allocated for provision of free medicines.
A sum of Rs 7.567 billion has been allocated for industries in the proposed budget. TEVTA will receive about Rs 5.054 billion as grant-in-aid and an amount of Rs 145.575 million has been reserved for Headquarters Establishment.
An amount of Rs 179.354 million has been reserved for Inspectorate of Mines, whereas the Punjab Small Industries Corporation will get Rs1.420 billion as grant-in-aid.
The minister announced that GST (general sales tax) on construction services had been reduced from 16% to 5% while new construction firms have been exempted from registration fee to encourage investment in the province.
For economic growth, the Punjab government announced to restore the old policy of issuing investment bond of Rs 25 billion. The policy of issuing bonds was abolished in 70s.
The minister announced a couple of new schemes for the general public, including Orange Cab Scheme, Hand-Tap Scheme, Regional Development Project, Metro Bus Service for Faisalabad and continuation of Kisan Package. She said the government plans to distribute 50,000 Orange Cabs among the jobless youth while Hand-Tap Project will be started in backward districts of the province with a total amount of Rs 330 million. The government will provide Rs 15 billion for Kisan Package for the betterment of the farmers, she said.
About the Orange Line Metro Train (OMT) project in Lahore city, she informed the House that China’s Exim Bank would provide Rs 94 billion. She said that 70 percent work on the project had already been completed. She said that government will start a Regional Development Project in deprived and backward districts of the province and an amount of Rs 5 billion has been allocated for the purpose.
The minister told the House that government spent Rs 7 billion on the Chief Minister Laptop Scheme in the current fiscal year, but, surprisingly no amount was allocated for the scheme in the new budget.
The Finance Bill 2017 proposes to merge all taxes, duties or fees in one head of account of Stamp Duty which would be issued through e-stamping system. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif joined the session after lapse of a whole year. While treasury members greeted him with slogans of ‘Sher Aya, Sher Aya’, the opposition protested his entry by chanting slogans of ‘Go Nawaz Go’.
The joint opposition continued their protest throughout the speech by the finance minister. Gathered around speaker’s desk, they kept on chanting slogans against ruling Sharif family and threw torn up copies of budget agenda towards the treasury benches.