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AJK govt presents over Rs120 billion deficit-free budget

MUZAFFARABAD, June 18 (DAWN/WNP): The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Tuesday unveiled apparently a deficit free budget for the fiscal year 2019-20 in the Legislative Assembly with a record outlay of Rs121.56 billion.

Presented by minister for finance Dr Najeeb Naqi the budget proposed Rs97 billion for recurring expenditures and the rest – Rs24.56 billion – for developmental activities.

The assembly session, which was presided over by Speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir, witnessed commotion from beginning to end, as opposition lawmakers accused the government of pushing them to the wall for the past three years.

Not only that the government had disregarded its promises to the opposition, it had also evaded recommendations from the opposition, thus leaving them with no option but to reject the ‘fraud’ budget, maintained the opposition lawmakers.

However, the chair reminded them that the rules did not allow any other debate on the day of presentation of budget and gave floor to the finance minister, who read his speech amid constant sloganeering and desk thumping by the aggressive opposition.

The minister informed the house that the development budget for next fiscal year was 11pc higher than the current year and its 65pc would be spent on infrastructure related sectors, 24pc on social sectors and 11pc on productive sectors.

AJK’s entire development budget is provided by the federal government as grant.

Giving details of development budget’s allocations, the minister told the house that Rs9.9 billion had been proposed for communications and works (C&W), Rs2.67 billion for education, Rs2.4 billion for physical planning and housing.

He said local government and rural development (LG&RD) would receive Rs2.35 billion, electricity Rs2.07 billion, foreign aided projects Rs1.34 billion, health would receive Rs750 million.

The minister said Rs550 million had been allocated for forests, wildlife and fisheries, Rs528 million for industries and minerals, Rs419 million for agriculture and livestock, Rs264.6million for research and development, Rs235 million for Information Technology, Rs202.497 million for development authorities, Rs200 million for sports, youth and culture.

He said Rs200 million had been earmarked for tourism, Rs150 million for social welfare and women development, Rs104.45 million for rehabilitation and resettlement, Rs95 million for civil defence, Rs60m for environment, Rs37 million for information and media development and Rs20 million for transport.

Separately, he said, the federal Kashmir affairs ministry would also spend around Rs2.74 billion during the next fiscal year on its ongoing projects in AJK.

Another Rs44 billion were expected to be spent by other federal ministries and divisions on their projects in AJK, he said and added that the federal government would also be providing Rs5 billion for the ongoing reconstruction projects in AJK’s earthquake hit areas.

The minister asserted that the way the AJK government had addressed AJK’s issues pending with the federal government had no parallel in the past.

Regarding revenue generation, the minister said the government expected to generate Rs97 billion from different sectors and heads during the next fiscal year.

This includes Rs25.6 billion from income and provincial taxes, Rs54.85 billion as federal grant in lieu of taxes generated by the Federal Board of Revenue, Rs18.1billion from internal resources, such as electricity, forests, stamp duty, communication and works, Rs600 million from water use charges and Rs450 million from capital receipts (loan and advances), he said.

Of the recurring budget, he said, the highest amount of Rs27.169 billion would go to the education sector followed by Rs20 billion to pensions, Rs9.69 billion to health services, Rs8.594 billion to electricity, Rs5.94 billion to home (police), Rs5.383billion to miscellaneous (grants), Rs4.546 billion to general administration, Rs3.66 billion to C&W, Rs1.718 billion to administration of justice, Rs1.6 billion to “State Trading” (subsidy on wheat and wheat flour), Rs1.117 billion to forests, Rs1.049 billion to relief and rehabilitation, Rs962 million to Board of Revenue, Rs764 million to agriculture, Rs697 million to animal husbandry and Rs599 million to LG&RD .

The minister informed the house that government servants from B-1 to B-16 and from B-17 to B-20 would get 10pc and 5pc ad hoc relief allowance, respectively, on their running basic pay prevalent in 2017, while all pensioners would get a 10pc increase in their net pension.

He said special conveyance allowance of physically challenged government servants was being increased from Rs1,000 to Rs2,000 per month and special pay of private secretaries to ministers and secretaries to government was also being increased by 25pc.

Earlier, the AJK cabinet accorded approval to budget for the next fiscal year.

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