PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa budget 2020-20 focuses on bolstering the province’s health system in the face of Covid-19 pandemic and mitigation of economic slowdown by rationalisation of taxes on small businesses.

Analysis of the sectoral allocations contained in the budget documents showed that due to Covid-19 pandemic, the government had focused on the improvement of the province’s health system.

Budget documents showed that KP government had extended the Sehat Sahulat Programme to the whole population of the province.

Finance minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra said in his budget speech that the government had allocated Rs10 billion to extend the universal health initiative to 6.06 million families in the province.

He said the agreement with an insurance firm for the purpose would be signed next month.

“We have set aside Rs124 billion for health sector in the forthcoming fiscal for settled and merged district which included Rs105.9 billion for settled districts up from Rs87 billion allocation last year,” he said.

Rs124bn to be spent on healthcare, Rs5bn on urban development, Rs1.1bn on tourism

Of the amount, Rs24.4 billion has been allocated for development sector in the health department, which includes Rs13.8 billion for settled districts and Rs10.6 billion for merged districts.

The minister said Rs36 billion, including Rs26 billion for current expenditure and Rs4 billion for important schemes, had been allocated for the medical teaching institutions of the province.

He added that the remaining Rs6 billion had been kept as a special fund for MTIs to improve patient care.

The annual development programme in health sector also included the upgradation of the basic health units, tehsil headquarters hospitals, district headquarters hospitals and rural health centres, he said.

“This will be included the provision of equipment to health outlets in collaboration with World Bank at the cost of Rs13 billion,” he said.

The minister said allocation for purchase of medicines for the public sector hospitals had been increased Rs2.5 billion in 2019-20 to to Rs4 billion in the next fiscal to ensure patients get free drugs, surgical disposables and treatment.

“We have planned to spend Rs1 billion to ensure proper management of hospital wastes under the public-private partnership programme to safeguard people as well the hospital workers from infections and ensure the safe disposal of infectious waste,” he said.

The minister said in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government had allocated Rs24 billion to fight the issue effectively and protect the people from infection.

Mr Jhagra said it was a tax-free budget, which had neither imposed any new tax nor had it revised the existing taxes.

He said the government would abolish hotel and professional taxes on hotel and 18 other professions if they registered themselves with the KP Revenue Authority.

The minister said sales tax on services on 27 categories had been considerably reduced.

He said the government would provide loans to 10,000 small and medium enterprises, which was likely to create around one million job opportunities.

Mr Jhagra said nearly 30,000 businesses would be provided interest-free loans and it was likely to benefit 500,000 people.

He said 25,000 people would be hired to plant 195 million trees under the billion tree tsunami programme.

The minister said Rs290 million had been allocated for digital job creation in the province.

He said the hiring of around 21,000 school teachers was in process.

“The government will provide new teachers, who will join the department in the upcoming fiscal with money to buy tablets. The teachers will use these devices to teach students at home and in schools. In addition, 300 new schools will also be set up,” he said.

The minister said the government had allocated Rs1 billion to provide resources to universities, while 74 colleges would be established at the cost of Rs1.3 billion.

He said emergency rescue services would be extended to six new districts of the province, including Tank, Upper Chitral, Upper Kohistan, Kolai Palas, Battagram and Torghar, in the next fiscal.

The minister said the government would spend Rs600 million for early completion of Madian hydel power project with installed capacity of 157 megawatts, while Rs800 million would be spend on Gabral Kalam hydel power project.

He said Rs1.1 billion would be spent with the help of World Bank on the promotion of tourism and tourist destinations.

The minister said Rs440 million had been allocated for rehabilitation of the Arbab Niaz Cricket Stadium, Peshawar.

He said Rs330 million would be spent on the creation of 1,000 sporting facilities across the province, while Rs1.9 billion would be spend on playgrounds all over the province.

The minister said Rs5 billion had been allocated for urban development across the province, while Rs550 million would be spend under the Peshawar Development Programme.

He said landfill sites would be created in Upper Dir, Mansehra, Chitral and Swat.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2020