LAHORE: The caretaker Punjab government has presented a Rs1.72tr spending plan for four months — July to October — of the fiscal year 2023-24.

With an estimated revenue of Rs1.51tr, the budget deficit stood at Rs204.9bn.

The budget document didn’t give any details of the money to be spent on the run-up to the elections expected in October, triggering widespread speculations that it might spend money on development projects and subsidies based on PML-N’s political agenda.

Unlike the budgets of Sindh and Balochistan that were presented in provincial assemblies, Punjab’s budget was approved by the cabinet and details were provided by provincial ministers in a press conference on Monday.

The caretaker setup has claimed that no new taxes have been imposed, with a 31 per cent increase in health and education budgets. The salaries and pensions of government employees have been raised. A 30pc Adhoc Relief Allowance on the basic salary of government employees has been approved while pensions have been raised by 5pc and 20pc for retired employees up to the age of 80 years, and over 80 years, respectively.

Revenue estimated at Rs1.51tr, expenses Rs1.72tr; fund set up for journalists; salaries, pension hiked

The budget has also been approved by the caretaker cabinet under Article 126 of the Constitution. The cabinet meeting rejected a proposal to increase stamp duty to 3pc, thus maintaining it at 1pc to support the construction industry.

Rs195.1bn has been allocated for education and Rs183.7bn for the he­­a­­lth sector, while the service deli­ve­­ry expenditures have been estima­ted to be Rs120.4bn.

Rs16.4bn has been allocated to operationalise the 1,263MW RNLG power plant at Haveli Bahadur Shah near Jhang by October.

The caretaker government has also allocated Rs47.6bn for agriculture initiatives.

All provincial duties and taxes on the IT sector have been abolished and the establishment of an IT Park has also been approved. An endowment fund of Rs1bn has been established for journalists.

Speaking at the press conference alongside Industries Minister S.M. Tanvir, caretaker Information Minister Amir Mir said it was a ‘people-friendly’ budget, something that many said was outside the caretaker setup’s mandate.

Mr Mir boasted that, unlike previous governments, the caretaker setup took a significant initiative to pay off the Rs600bn loan owed by the Punjab government to commercial banks on account of wheat procurement.

“The Punjab government was paying Rs250m as markup payment every day on these loans,” he clai­med. He said Punjab would rec­eive Rs881bn from the federal divisible pool of taxes during the four months.

The province will generate Rs131.2bn and Rs62.1bn from its tax and non-tax revenue, respectively. Rs325bn has been allocated as development expenditure for ongoing development schemes.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2023

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