ISLAMABAD - The National Economic Council (NEC) on Friday approved the country’s total development budget for fiscal year 2017-2018 at Rs2.113 trillion, showing highest-ever increase in the overall national outlay, and set the economic growth target at six per cent.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while chairing the meeting, said that his government was pursuing a people-centric approach to development, and had increased provincial share in the Public Sector Development Programme 2017-2018, which was three times more compared to financial year 2012-2013.

The meeting was also attended by the prime minister of the AJK, governor KP, chief ministers of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, as well as federal and provincial ministers.

The prime minister said that Pakistan's economic indicators had significantly improved and were being acknowledged by international financial rating institutions.

He said that the growth rate of 5.28 per cent was commendable and Pakistan had now emerged as among the fastest growing economies.

Sharif said that the federal and provincial governments were working in harmony for the development of the country.

He said that work on projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project were also on the fast track.

Sharif said that during the Belt and Road Forum in China all the chief ministers accompanied him, and the world saw that Pakistan was united and unanimous for achieving development.

He termed it “a very positive message”.

"We are focusing on energy projects. Not only power supply is our priority but we are providing affordable power supply for consumers," the prime minister said.

"We are focusing on a balanced mix of sources for energy including LNG, coal, hydel, solar and wind," he added.

Sharif said that infrastructure was the key to development and the government was focusing on roads and communication networks.

In a press briefing, after the NEC meeting, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said the council had approved the economic and development framework for the next fiscal year.

He said that the federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) approved by the NEC was of Rs1,001 billion for next year.

While cumulative Annual Development Plan (ADP) for the provinces of Rs1.112 trillion was approved by the NEC for the next year as against Rs875 billion of current year.

Beside the PSDP allocation of Rs1,001 billion, the minister said that the NTDC, the PEPCO and the WAPDA would be financing their own projects worth Rs400 billion.

He said that Rs411 billion were being allocated for the infrastructure projects, which included Rs320 billion for the NHA.

Out of total energy projects of Rs404 billion, Rs87 billion will be funded through the PSDP, while Rs317 billion will be funded by the NTDC, the WAPDA, and Gencos, he elaborated.

Similarly, the minister said that Rs180 billion would be allocated for the CPEC projects, while Rs43b would go to the Railways.

The budget for the social sector is being increased from Rs90 billion to Rs153 billion.

As such, the core PSDP would be put at Rs866 billion next year against Rs655 billion of current year, while non-core development spending would amount to Rs135 billion.

Ahsan Iqbal said that the initiatives taken by the PML-N government had delivered 5.3 per cent GDP growth rate after a gap of a decade – a great achievement for the entire nation that was trapped in three to 3.5pc growth rate four years ago.

The increase in growth rate, he claimed, was because of steps taken towards macroeconomic stability, infrastructure development, energy supply and human resource development.

To achieve six per cent GDP growth rate, the agriculture sector is targeted to maintain its current year growth rate of 3.5 per cent, while important crops would grow by two per cent instead of 4.1 per cent this year.

Manufacturing sector is projected to grow by 6.4 per cent next year instead of five per cent this year contributed by 6.3pc increase next year compared to 4.9 per cent this year.

The services sector was also expected to grow by 6.4pc instead of six per cent this year, while livestock would slow down to two per cent growth instead of 3.4 per cent increase this year.

Iqbal said that the completion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was one of the top objectives of the government and hence Rs324 billion would be given to the National Highways Authority (NHA) for infrastructure development.

The minister said that decline in exports was a major challenge for Pakistan because of contraction or slow growth in leading world markets such as the United States.

The exceptions were nations focusing on value addition, while Pakistan has been focused on commodity exports over the past 30 years.

Therefore, allocations had been made for cluster development in agriculture, mining and industry to secure cluster-based growth in the entire supply chain of value addition.

Based on this, exports are projected to grow by 6.4 per cent next year to $23.1 billion against decline this year to $21.7 billion.

At the same time, import growth target has been set at 9.6 per cent to $50 billion instead of $45.7 billion this year.

As a result, the next year trade deficit has been estimated at $26.9 billion against $24 billion this year, while the current account deficit would increase to $10.4 billion compared to $8.3 billion this year.

As such, current account deficit would amount to 3.1 per cent of the GDP next year against 2.7 per cent this year.

Official documents suggest that a total of Rs352.7 billion have been allocated to federal ministries for next year compared to Rs237 billion this year, an increase of 48 per cent or Rs115 billion.

Federal corporations working on the CPEC have been earmarked Rs384.3 billion including foreign funding of Rs145 billion.

Iqbal said that another hallmark of the PML-N had been investment in higher education to promote modern education among the youth, and hence Rs35.5 billion had been allocated for the Higher Education Commission.

He said that a number of initiatives such as start-up and innovation packages would be launched so that the youth could start businesses through information technology, while steps such as big data cloud computing, cyber security and automation and robotics were being introduced.

The minister said that during current fiscal year 31 projects would be completed in Gwadar, and Rs17 billion special allocation was made for the water supply and other problems of Balochistan.

Similarly, it has been decided to complete Kacchi canal during the current year.

In the NEC, the prime minister advocates the rights of Gilgit-Baltistan, the AJK, the FATA, and said that it was their right to have equal development just as other parts of the country, he said.

On special directives of the PM block allocations for Azad Kashmir was increased by Rs10 billion from Rs12 billion to Rs22 billion, and for Gilgit-Baltistan from Rs9 billion to Rs12 billion.

Similarly, the block allocation of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) was increased to Rs24.5 billion from Rs21 billion.

He claimed that all the four provinces and regional governments, Sindh, KP, Balochistan, Punjab , AJK and GB appreciated the economic performance and unanimously approved the PSDP.

The minister said that on the directives of the prime minister, special energy initiative for all is being launched.

He said that currently one-third of the country was deprived of electricity.

Ahsan Iqbal said that a National Centre for Cooperation of Civilisations was being established and the Academy of Letters was being extended to the whole country by setting up its offices in all the provincial capitals.

For these two projects Rs2 billion have been allocated, he added.