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LAHORE: The Punjab caretaker government approved on Tuesday Rs693 billion annual budget for the fiscal year 2018-19, putting education, health and agriculture sectors on its top priority.

However, it clarified that under article 126 of the Constitution, it can authorise expenditure for four months from the provincial consolidated fund,” he added.

“Since we have presented a full-year budget, the new provincial government may bring about changes to it. However, we have done our best by increasing budget estimates for education, health and agriculture to Rs356.5bn, 250bn and Rs32.8bn, respectively.

In 2017-18, the revised estimates for these sectors were Rs283.4bn, Rs195.6bn and Rs22.8bn,” Finance Minister Mr Zia Haider Rizvi briefed reporters on the annual budget.

Targets for PRA, BoR and excise dept increased

The government expects considerable volume of the revenue collection after it increased annual targets for the Punjab Revenue Authority (PRA), Board of Revenue (BoR) and Excise & Taxation department by 16 per cent to the tune of Rs359bn. Next year, the government expects that combined tax collection would increase by 29pc. In 2017-2018, the revised estimate/target for the PRA, BoR and E&T had been set at Rs115bn, Rs62.5bn and Rs28.5bn, respectively.

“However, this time we have estimated that the PRA, BoR and E&T would be able to collect revenue to the tune of Rs150bn, Rs74.45bn and Rs35.7bn, respectively,” the finance minister maintained.

The 2018-19 Punjab budget allocations are proposed to be increased by 28.6pc in school education, 38.6pc in primary and secondary healthcare and 25.8pc in specialised healthcare and medical education.

The budget includes fixation of development and non-development expenditures for four months on pro-rata basis. However, there are certain front-loaded expenditures which have been catered for the next four months’ expenditures authorisation like election expense, natural calamities (flood, dengue etc). Moreover, on the same lines of the federal government, there is a 10pc increase in the basic pay/salary with revision of house rent allowance. Similarly a 10pc raise has been given in pension and additional pensionary benefits.

The government claims that by the end of 2018-19 fiscal year, there would be no negative cash balance, no throw forward of liabilities into next fiscal year. Similarly, it says that expenditures control measures have been approved in the budget, such as no further net recruitment. The ADP is likely to reduce due to increase in the service delivery expenditures, salaries and pensions. Although there is some space in the national economic council limit for borrowing by the province, decision on the same would be made by the elected government. Moreover, important decisions on the development side have been deferred for the elected government.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2018