KP unveils surplus budget with record development outlay

June 19, 2019

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FINANCE Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra presenting the budget on Tuesday.
—Shahbaz Butt / White Star
FINANCE Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra presenting the budget on Tuesday. —Shahbaz Butt / White Star

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtun­khwa government on Tuesday unveiled a Rs900 billion surplus budget for 2019-20 with a record development outlay of Rs319bn.

KP Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra presented the budget amid uproar from the opposition benches. Mr Jhagra’s voice was initially inaudible amid chants of ‘Go Niazi Go’; however, he soon caught up by speaking at the top of his voice.

It was the Pakistan Tehreek-Insaf government’s seventh consecutive budget for the province in which, for the first time, allocations for the merged tribal districts were presented before the provincial assembly.

The finance minister said that it was a historic moment as for the first time the assembly was witnessing one budget for a new and larger Pakhtunkhwa. “This then is an opportune moment to again welcome the people of the merged tribal districts to this province, as we will shortly welcome their representatives,” Mr Jhagra said.

The budget has been pitched at Rs900bn, of which Rs693bn would be spent in the settled districts, while remaining Rs162bn has been allocated to the tribal districts.

In a first, allocations for tribal districts presented in provincial assembly

Budget documents show that the province’s share of federal divisible pool has been pitched at Rs453bn, 1pc of divisible pool for fight against terror at Rs54bn, oil and gas royalties at Rs25bn, net hydel profits and its arrears at Rs55bn, the province’s own tax receipts at Rs53bn, foreign assistance at Rs82bn, grants for merged districts at Rs151bn and other receipts at Rs24bn.

The province’s current expenditures have been projected at Rs535bn, including an allocation of Rs79bn for merged districts, while development outlay has been pitched at Rs319bn, including Rs83bn for development in merged districts, leaving a surplus of Rs45bn.

Mr Jhagra said Rs319bn outlay for development was a historic one, which was Rs34bn more than Rs285bn Annual Development Programme (ADP) of Sindh and only eight per cent less than Punjab’s Rs350 development programme.

In the ADP breakdown, Rs 236bn has been allocated for settled districts. Of this, Rs 108bn has been earmarked for provincial component and Rs 46bn for district ADP, up from Rs 29bn of the current year. Foreign assistance has been projected at Rs82bn. Development outlay for merged districts has been projected at Rs83bn. Of this, Rs 24bn will be spent on creation of 17,000 jobs and regularisation of Levies and Khasdar Forces.

The minister said tourism, urban development, agriculture, information technology, forestry, industries and higher education were priority sectors and they would get Rs 29.4bn. He said the provincial government had also set up Rs1.1bn special fund for development of least developed districts of the province, including Kolai Palas, Battagram, Tank, Kohistan Upper, Upper and Lower Chitral, Shangla and Hangu.

Mr Jhagra said they had cut down the province’s throw-forward liability by Rs 203bn, freeing space for development projects, and now even with addition of Rs 190bn new projects throw-forward stood at 3.5 years. Allocations to new projects have also been increased from Rs 10bn of the current year to Rs37bn in 2018-19.

Talking about cost cutting measures, the finance minister claimed a massive saving of Rs 95bn for development schemes after a huge cost cutting exercise across the government. In a first, he said, the government had managed to arrest rapid increase in pay bill which had risen to Rs 256bn in current year. This year, budgeted provincial and district salaries remain at Rs256bn and there is not a single rupee increase.

Mr Jhagra said pay and pension bill amounted to 51pc of total budget expenditures in the current budget but this trend had been brought down to 46pc of total budget in 2019-20. “The arrest in this growth entailed saving of over Rs 60bn,” he said.

The KP government has also envisaged an ambitious plan to increase the province’s revenue and raise its tax base. The minister said they were setting the province’s highest revenue target of Rs 53.4bn, which was 54pc higher than current year’s downward revised estimates. “By 2023, we are targeting Rs100bn as our revenue target, “Mr Jhagra said.

He said the KP Revenue Authority was placing 28 out of 58 taxable services at a reduced tax rate of below 15pc. He said the government was reducing tax rate on ride hailing services to 2pc and that on online marketplace services to 5pc.

Mr Jhagra announced 10pc salary raise for government employees in BS-1-16 and 5pc for those in BS-17-19 while those in BS-20-22 would not receive any raise. The KP cabinet members’ salaries have been slashed by 12pc. He said the decision to increase superannuation age to 63 years would save the province up to Rs 20bn per annum.

Mr Jhagra also announced that minimum wage had been increased to Rs 17,500.

He asked the federal government to pay KP net hydel profit (NHP) arrears of Rs34.5bn. “Please pay us NHP dues on a monthly basis as is the case with other straight transfers. And let us finally find a solution to the issue of payments according to the A.G.N. Kazi formula,” he said.

Mr Jhagra also announced plans to recruit 21,000 teachers and improve 28,000 schools. He said the government was aiming to fast track development of Rashkai Economic Zone in industries sector, while Rs 1bn would be spent on tourism roads in Malakand and Hazara division.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2019