QUETTA: Balochistan is set to present a surplus and “people-friendly” budget on June 22 for the fiscal year 2024-25, the provincial planning and finance ministers said on Sunday, highlighting the total budget layout would exceed Rs850 billion, with significant allocations for education and health sectors.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Quetta, Balochistan’s Planning and Development Minister Zahoor Ahmed Buledi and Finance Minister Shoaib Nosherwani noted that employee salaries would see a 25pc increase for grades 1 to 16, a 20pc increase for grades 17 to 22, and a 15pc increase in pensions.

They also noted that the federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) allocated Rs58bn for Balochistan in the upcoming fiscal year. Mr Buledi said the previous budget included over 9,000 schemes, which was unsustainable. The provincial government has significantly cut unnecessary schemes through a “major surgery” in the PSDP, focusing the upcoming budget on public necessities and development, he added.

A new scholarship programme will provide financial aid to students pursuing PhD degrees in science, technology, engineering, and accounting. Free education up to grade 16 will be offered to the children of martyrs, and grants to universities will be doubled from Rs2.5bn to Rs5bn, while Rs2bn will be allocated to enrol out-of-school children.

Salaries to be raised by up to 25pc, pensions by 15pc

Plans for the health sector include establishing a hospital in Nasirabad Division similar to Gumbat Hospital, a Satellite Hospital in Quetta, and allocating Rs1.7bn for Sheikh Zayed Hospital for heart diseases.

Other health initiatives include Rs700 million for burn units in 15 districts and Rs581m for breast cancer treatment. A grant of Rs505m will be provided for health cards, and Rs1.2bn will be allocated to link GDA Hospital with Indus Hospital.

“Balochistan’s share in the federal PSDP has been increased to Rs58bn and after the protest of Balochistan in the National Economic Council, the federal PSDP was revised and many provincial projects that had been dropped earlier have been included,” Mr Buledi said.

The planning minister regretted that for the past 15 years, no federal project in Balochistan has been completed despite a massive portfolio for the province. He said only 43pc of the funds were released in the current fiscal, with only Rs6bn allocated for provincial schemes, severely affecting federal projects.

He said Rs17bn had been allocated for the Quetta-Karachi highway, Rs8bn for the dual carriage of the Hoshab-Awaran highway, Rs3bn for Nokkundi-Mashkel road, Rs3.5bn for Zhob-Kuchlak road, Rs10bn for Kachhi Canal, and Rs5bn for Turbat-Mand road. Also, a road project costing Rs40bn has been included from Gwadar-Panjgur-Mashkel up to Afghanistan.

Mr Nosherwani said the current fiscal year’s developmental budget was Rs229bn, of which Rs129bn would be spent by the end of June. He said the upcoming fiscal’s budget would exceed Rs850bn and aims to be people-friendly, with tangible benefits for the public. He said 25pc of the non-developmental budget would be allocated to education, 10pc to health, and local council grants will increase from Rs16bn to Rs35bn.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2024

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