KP Finance Minister Humayun Khan presented the ANP-PPP coalition government’s 2012-13 Budget of Rs 303 billion, including an annual development programme of Rs 97.458 billion. The first of the provincial budgets as per tradition, it was also the government’s fifth, meaning that it was an election budget. What made it possible for the government to use it to position itself for the elections due next year, but before the next budget, was the National Finance Commission Award. It made available the funds which the KP coalition intends to put into development, which it increased from Rs 69.283 billion this year. The provincial government also followed the federal example, raising salaries and pensions 20 percent, raising its revenue budget spending to Rs 191.6 billion, 29 percent more this year, doing all this while not even revising taxes, let alone imposing new ones, thus making for a tax-free budget, a highly convenient claim to make before an election.

That the province has been the focal point of the war on terror was reflected in the fact that, in the development budget, the money allocated to law and order was increased to Rs 23.35 billion, an increase of 24 percent over the Rs 18.81 billion allocated this fiscal year. Though health got an increase of 31.81 percent to Rs 10.33 billion, and education Rs 12.18 billion, an increase of more than 38 percent, it is obvious that money that has to go to law and order is money taken away from social sectors. Taking a leaf out of the Punjab’s book, the KP government has announced that it will give away 25,000 laptop computers to students at a cost of Rs 1 billion. It is to be assumed that the KP government will be as mindful of the need for transparency as the Punjab government has been. It should be noted that this has been a cross-partisan approach, for the KP government has learnt of the need to put laptops in the hands of its students from a Punjab government belonging to a different political party.

The hype over the federal budget disguised the fact that the provinces also have to present election budgets. The KP budget has shown that. It has also shown that the NFC award has provided the provinces the funds they need to begin some delivery of services, the function they are supposed to fulfill in the federation. The award itself will soon run out, and though it is the next government that will set up a new commission, the provincial governments must begin preparations for this stage.