MUZAFFARABAD: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government has unveiled a Rs163.7 billion budget for the next fiscal year in the legislative assembly on Saturday amid a boycott by the combined opposition.
The budget outlay comprises Rs28.5bn for development and Rs135.2bn for recurring expenses.
The session, presided over by Deputy Speaker Chaudhry Riaz Gujjar, started more than three hours behind schedule, as a ministerial team kept on trying to pacify the opposition.
In the previous session, the opposition announced a boycott of proceedings over “unlawful amendments” to the assembly’s rules of procedure as well as the “denial of an equal share of development funds” to them by the government despite an apex court judgement.
Even though the ministerial team, according to its claim, had conceded to almost all demands of the opposition, the latter did not show flexibility and, instead of turning up in the house, staged a sit-in at the main entrance of the building.
Rs28.5bn fixed for development; pay scales revised; 15pc increase in pensions from July 1
In his budget speech, AJK Finance Minister Abdul Majid Khan maintained that the government was committed to implementing the apex court judgement and giving the opposition its due share, but some opposition members wanted to derail the system.
He said the PTI government was presenting its first budget in an atmosphere when Pakistan was grappling with an acute financial crisis.
He lamented that an unusual cut in the AJK’s 3.64 per cent share in the federal taxes pool (variable grant), under a 2018 financial agreement, was an inappropriate move that had made it difficult for the region to smoothly run its affairs.
He said exhaustive consultations were held with all departments under the guidance of Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas for budget preparation and they were being given funds as per their expected needs.
The government had also given them challenging revenue targets and those failing to meet them would be held accountable, he added.
Giving a break-up of the income in the next fiscal year, Mr Khan said the government estimated to generate Rs36.5bn from the inland revenue department, Rs74.32bn as 3.64pc share in the variable grant, Rs25.13bn from internal resources, Rs700 million each from water use charges and capital receipts (loans and advances).
An amount of Rs2.15bn of the income had been spared for overdraft adjustment, while the rest for the recurring expense, he added.
He informed the house that the AJK government had demanded Rs40bn from the Centre for its Annual Development Programme (ADP). However, to its dismay, Islamabad announced an allocation of Rs26.5bn, though it later raised it to Rs28.5bn, including a foreign aid component of Rs500m.
Apparently, the volume of 2022-23 ADP was equivalent to that of the current year’s, but, in effect, it was half of it when viewed against the backdrop of skyrocketing inflation and cuts in the current year’s development budget, he said.
The minister said the PTI government would make the best possible and the most transparent use of available resources to put its share in Azad Kashmir’s development and progress.
Keeping in view the fiscal deficit, he said the government had also decided to fully engage the private sector in the development process and in this regard, a donor coordination committee comprising cabinet members was being constituted.
Towards the end of his speech, the minister announced that the AJK government would also implement the federal government’s decision to provide a 15pc disparity reduction allowance (DRA) and revised pay scales with an increase for its employees and 15pc increase in pensions from July 1.
Earlier, the minister also presented the supplementary budget for the current year. The house was adjourned to meet again on Monday.
Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2022