LAHORE - Like the federal budget, infrastructure development, economic growth and skills development will remain key areas of focus for the Punjab government in provincial budget 2015-16 being presented on June 12 (Friday) with expected outlay of around Rs1,165 billion against ongoing fiscal year’s budget of Rs1,044 billion with around Rs355 billion for Annual Development Programme.

Orange Line, Matro Bus Service in Multan, Khadim-e-Punjab Rural Roads Programme, Apna Rozgar Scheme, skill development, Daanish schools, Saaf Pani Project as well as other projects will be initiated for a positive change in rural life. According to the Punjab government officials involved in budget making, the yellow cab, Ashiana, soft loans and laptop schemes would continue in the next fiscal year with enhanced allocations of the resources.

Budget for current expenditures is estimated at about Rs750 billion versus Rs699 of current fiscal year. The provincial government will set the tax collection target of Rs186.4 billion for next fiscal year against Rs164.7 billion of current financial year which has not been achieved either by the Punjab Revenue Authority.

Under the General Revenue Receipts of Rs1.849 trillion, the provincial government would receive Rs894.65 billion from the divisible pool of the federal government, while the provincial tax and non-tax revenues have been estimated at Rs268.86 billion in the next fiscal year. The Punjab government is focusing on pro-poor schemes in the forthcoming budget for fiscal year 2015-16, which is being presented by the newly-appointed Punjab Minister for Finance Ayesha Ghaus Pasha.

According to provincial finance ministry officials, the economic managers presently are trying to amend some clauses of luxury tax which was introduced during the budget of 2013-14 and was delayed on directives of the courts and not implemented so far.

Finance department officials said that like the outgoing fiscal year budget allocations for southern Punjab districts in the upcoming year would also be 36 per cent of the total allocations of about Rs125 billion.

They said the budget would include allocations for local elections and the Orange Line Metro Train project for Lahore. Budget will allocate Rs153 billion in ADP for civil works of orange line while Rs11 billion will be allocated for the running development projects in Lahore. The government is also allocating a subsidy of Rs7 billion for flour, transport, besides establishment of Ramazan Bazaars. About Rs50 billion will be allocated for project of supply of potable water to rural areas in the province with the name of Saaf Pani Project under which water filtration plants will be set up in next three years. The project will be launched from four districts of South Punjab and this will gradually be expanded to the whole province.

About Rs150 billion have been allocated for Khadim-e-Punjab Rural Roads Program to improve rural economy and the Communication & Works Department will implement this huge program of repair and construction of rural roads. The Punjab government has already launched this project with Rs15 billion at the end of this fiscal year. The core Annual Development Plan (ADP) is likely to be fixed at around Rs355 billion with some additional block allocation of more than Rs65b for the new schemes. Rs64 billion will be allocated for education and Rs47 billion for health while Rs26 billion is being spent on energy projects at provincial level.

The budget, stated to be pro-poor, would envisage broadening of the tax net and bringing those areas under tax collection, which previously were outside the net, however no plan is under consideration to impose tax on agri income of the landlords which dominate not only the Punjab Assembly but also the parliament of the whole country. Sources said that many proposals are under consideration to increase revenue through tax collection.

Sources further said incentives and subsidies to farmers on fertilizers, pesticides and machinery are also under consideration for the next budget.

The next Punjab budget is likely to carry special programme for employment and self-business schemes for the youth in addition to encouraging and providing special incentives to the students of higher education under the Higher Education Commission Punjab and for those undertaking research oriented education.

According to finance department officials, the Punjab government would also increase salaries and pensions of the serving and retired civil servants corresponding with the decision in regard by the federal government by 7.5 per cent.