With an increase of 18.8 percent from last year, this year’s Punjab budget has seen a tax-free and relief-oriented approach by the current government in its last year in power. With the general elections only a year away, the biggest budget in the province’s history is sure to rally a few wavering supporters to the ruling party’s side.

Grand infrastructural projects that are the hallmark of work done by the PML-N are to be extended to the last year in government as well – other cities such as Faisalabad are to start work on projects such as the Metro Bus Project in a bid to secure support in smaller cities. Lahore’s development – whether it is sustainable or even the best utilisation of resources is a debate for another day – is seen by the province as a tangible sign of progress. If the same tactic can be repeated in other cities, it might just see PML-N continue its reign in Punjab for another five years.

This budget, like all others before it, is being closely scrutinised by civil society experts in two sectors specifically – education and health – and with an increase of 9.3 and 21.2 percent respectively, the amount allocated might just satisfy many that felt that the government was not prioritising on human development. Provision of laptops, establishing district authorities, setting up 50 new degree colleges and directly investing in the education of girls across the province are some of the major allocations, while the health sector will see double the investment in primary and secondary healthcare compared to last year, with money allocated for setting up 100 health units and over Rs73 billion invested into establishing district health authorities.

But even with an absolute increase in all sectors, there are some injections that would have appealed more to the stakeholders than others, in the agricultural sector for instance. With negotiations with the Pakistan Kissan Itehad (PKI) continuing practically until the budget was announced, the government was well aware of its demands. Prioritising on bio-tech, farm mechanisation, removal of the GST on fertilisers and withdrawal of all taxes on inputs and farm machinery were all recommendations made by PKI that were refused by the government, and instead we see greater focus on increasing rural connectivity and Rs140 billion allocated to agriculture, irrigation, livestock, forestry food and fisheries.

Ultimately, there is no budget that can please all those affected by it, but this budget might just end up keeping PML-N’s tenterhooks in Punjab firmly in place.