Punjab Assembly passes budget amid rumpus by both opposition, treasury benches

Updated June 29, 2019

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CM takes pride in leading austerity drive; speaks of funds for health, development sectors. — DawnNewsTV/File
CM takes pride in leading austerity drive; speaks of funds for health, development sectors. — DawnNewsTV/File

LAHORE: The opposition on Friday made up for what it lacked on Tuesday (when the provincial budget was passed): resisting the passage of supplementary budget, with an hour-long noisy protest – as long as the speaker read all 40 demands for grants under the bill.

As soon as the speaker started reading the bill, grant by grant, the House lost all sense of decorum. The entire opposition gathered in front of his rostrum and a noisy hell broke loose; nothing was audible in the House for next one hour.

Not to be left behind, around 20 Treasury members also occupied the other side of the speaker’s chair and started responding to opposition’s sloganeering. They blocked the way of the opposition so that sloganeering do not encircle chair and make things difficult. The budget was read grant by grant, totaling 40, and it was passed quickly.

CM takes pride in leading austerity drive; speaks of funds for health, development sectors

After the passage, the chair asked Leader of the Opposition Hamza Shehbaz to say a few words on the budget but he had left the session during the protest. The opposition also walked out in protest, leaving the entire proceedings to the treasury.

Chief Minister Usman Buzdar was there as well and was invited to address the house. Congratulating the house and allies on the passage of the budget, he said that it was a first regular budget of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government and process was completed today. “It reflects vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan both in human development and austerity. The Chief Minister House is leading the austerity drive by reducing 58 per cent of its expenditures. He said 10 to 20 percent decrease in non-salary, operational, M&R and other heads was a proof of practical measures for austerity. Unnecessary expenditures like repair and maintenance of personal residences in the name of security have been abolished now as Rs280 million was spent for that purpose in earlier year. “The number of security officials has been decreased from 2,000 to 500 and I don’t have any camp office, private residence or any other office in Lahore like past traditions. We are the custodian of the national exchequer and public money will be spent on public welfare,” he said.

Development budget has been increased by 47 per cent, as directed by the prime minister. The health budget has been increased by 46 per cent. South Punjab would get 35 per cent of development funds against 12 to 17 per cent spent in the PML-N years, and these 35 per cent funds would not be diverted to any other project as used to happen during previous governments.

The chief minister announced giving three months salary as an honorarium for the assembly staff. He said the Islamic welfare state was our destination and the ‘Bahimat Programme’ was being started for citizens over 65 years under Punjab Ehsaas Programme. “Hum Qadam programme is being started for disabled people and Sarprast programme is being introduced for widows and orphans. Similarly, Musawat programme is also being introduced for hapless segments besides introducing Nai Zindgi programme for the restoration of women suffering from acid throwing. Kheraj-e-Shuhada programme is being introduced for financial aid of the families of those who became victim to terrorism.”

He said that remote villages have been included in the journey of development through Naya Pakistan Manzalian Asaan and 1,500 kilometer long carpeted roads are being made under it. The target of 2.5 million houses has been fixed under Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme during the next five years. He said 1,000 prisoners have been got released by paying around Rs280 million fine and Diyat. Agri reforms have been introduced and farmers are issued agri credit cards to facilitate the farmers. He said that construction activities in Great Thal Canal and Chubara Branch are being accelerated and work is being done on up-gradation of Trimmu and Punjnad Barrage. 160,000 acres and 215,000 people of 80 villages of Jhelum and Khushab will be provided water after the completion of Jalalpur Canal project.

New labour policy has been formulated and the law has been introduced for the safety of workers and domestic servants. New allotment policy has been formulated for the allotment of houses to industrial workers in labour colonies. He said that sports calendar is being devised and vice-chancellors’ posting has been made on merit in public sector universities for the first time in Punjab.

“All 36 districts and major hospitals in the province would have shelter homes shortly. It is for the first time that nine new hospitals would be built in province in the next year. Six universities will also be built during the same time. This is the kind of investment on human development Punjab is going to make this year. Rescue Service (1122) is being extended to sub-divisional level and 177 official rest houses have been opened to public. The government has already announced agriculture policy and would change be visible in the rural Punjab. All these factors make it a unique budget in the history of the province and would help the province continue to path to development,” Mr Buzdar said.

Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi also held a meeting with Mr Buzdar at his assembly chamber on Friday.

All soon as the speech of the chief Minister ended, the chair prorogued the house.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2019