• Development expenditure projected at Rs321.2bn
• Rs32bn allocated for education, Rs20bn for health development spending
• Salaries of govt employees to be increased by up to 25pc

QUETTA: Amidst a boycott by the opposition, the PPP-led coalition government in Balochistan on Friday presented a Rs955.6 billion budget for fiscal year 2024-25, projecting development expenditures of Rs321.2bn and a projected cash surplus of Rs25.4bn for the next fiscal year.

Tabled by Finance Minister Mir Shoaib Ahmed Nosherwani, the proposed budget is more than 36 per cent larger than the original estimate of Rs701.4bn for the outgoing year. This is mainly due to an anticipated increase of over 39pc in the province’s receipts from the federal tax divisible pool, which are expected to rise to Rs647bn from Rs464.7bn under the existing National Finance Commission (NFC) arrangement.

Other receipts from the federal government include Rs20.6bn in straight transfers, Rs20 million in non-development grants, and Rs59.1bn in development grants. Other major revenue streams include Rs47.7bn from provincial taxes and Rs76.8bn from provincial non-tax receipts.

Foreign project assistance for development schemes has been estimated at Rs10.9bn, compared to more than Rs12bn for the outgoing year.

The healthy increase in the province’s revenue will be largely offset by a more than 41pc increase in its current revenue expenditures, which will surge to Rs564.9bn on account of a sharp rise in the pay and pension bill as well as increased spending on maintenance of security.

Meanwhile, development expense will be raised modestly to Rs321.2bn from the current Rs313.3bn.

Education spending

Mr Nosherwani said the provincial government was making a serious effort and utilising all its resources to fulfil its responsibilities under Article 25-A of the Constitution so that children from ages five to 16 who are currently deprived of education may be enrolled in primary and high school-level education streams.

He said 535 new posts would be created in the next financial year and that 9,394 existing posts from Grades 9 to 15, which are currently vacant, would be filled on merit so that the current shortage of teachers could be overcome and non-functional schools could be made functional again.

He said Rs3.5bn from federal grants would be spent on improvement in education in 22 ‘backward’ districts, and that Rs5bn was being allocated for public sector universities which are facing financial crisis. He said Rs2bn had been released by the provincial government for 11 universities currently facing crisis conditions. He said Rs32bn would be allocated for development spending on higher education, and Rs114.8bn for non-development spending.

Health spending

As for the health sector, he said Rs67.3bn had been set aside for non-development expenditures, which was 30pc more than the current financial year. Another Rs20bn had been budgeted for development spending. He said 242 new posts would be created in the health sector in the next financial year. He announced that Rs1.3bn had been allocated for running the Gwadar Pak-China Friendship Hospital under the management of the Indus Hospital, while Rs1.3bn had been allocated for paediatric oncology services to save children from cancer. He said three main hospitals would be made autonomous and a Gambat-like liver transplant hospital would be established in Nasirabad.

Climate change

The finance minister said his government had taken climate change seriously and evolved different plans to mitigate its impact, including the rehabilitation of flood-stricken people and improvement of the Hairdin drainage system to protect people from future flooding. He said Rs10bn had been allocated under the Green Balochistan Initiative to meet the challenges of climate change, while the grant for the Disaster Management Authority had been increased to Rs7.9bn.

Mr Nosherwani said the provincial government had allocated a total Rs93.1bn to law and order and safety affairs. The allocation for police, Levies Force, and Balochistan Cons­tabulary would be Rs74bn, while the Gwadar Safe City project would get Rs1bn.

Governance budget

The Balochistan government also decided to increase funds available to the local governments by 108pc compared to the outgoing year allocation, taking their total budget to Rs35 billion in fiscal 2024-25.

He said that, just like the federal government, the salaries of provincial employees would be increased by 25pc for those in Grades 1 to 16, and 22pc for those in Grade 17 to 22. Besides, the provincial government had decided to invest Rs2bn more in Balochistan’s pension fund.

It has also introduced a contributory pension scheme for new employees from July 1.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2024

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