Positives

1. In line with the election year, the development budget has been increased almost 51 per cent over the revised estimate for the ongoing fiscal year (from Rs166 billion to Rs250 billion). However, the allocation for development is only 14 per cent higher than the original budget estimate for 2011-12 (Rs220 billion).

2. Lesser assistance has been sought in the form of foreign aid and development grants from foreign governments to finance the development programme (from Rs18.610 billion to Rs11.488 billion in the case of foreign aid; and from Rs3.384 billion to Rs2.147 billion in the case of development grants from foreign governments).

3. No new tax has been imposed and no existing tax has been enhanced.

4. The salaries of MPAs have been reduced by 5 per cent. Though a token gesture, it sets a good precedent for the future.

5. A total of 80,000 new jobs in various departments have been promised in the next fiscal year.

6. A quota of 15 per cent has been reserved for women in all jobs.

7. An amount of Rs4 billion has been earmarked to provide subsidised eatables during the month of Ramazan.

8. As many as 125,000 laptops will be given to students during the next fiscal year and Rs4 billion have been earmarked for this purpose.

9. Ten per cent of seats in private educational institutions charging Rs5,000 or more in monthly fees have been proposed for poor students.

10. About 150,000 qualified skilled workers will be given interest-free loans of Rs50,000 each to enable them to set up their businesses.

11. Twenty thousand yellow cabs and as many green tractors will be provided to the people.

12. A subsidy of Rs27.5billion has been earmarked to keep the fluctuating flour prices at a reasonable rate.

13. An allocation of Rs11 billion has been made for the Bus Rapid Transit System in Lahore.

14. Overall the budget estimates are realistic, since they show an increase or decrease in keeping with the ongoing year’s trend.

15. Salaries of provincial government employees have been increased by 20 per cent.

16. District governments will receive Rs187 billion as a single line transfer, up from Rs148 billion in the ongoing budget. TMAs will receive Rs17 billion, up from Rs15.6 billion in the ongoing budget. Similarly, union administrations will receive Rs6 billion, up from Rs5 billion in the ongoing budget.

17. The total development expenditure on social sectors has been estimated at Rs86.5 billion, up from Rs78.835 billion in the ongoing fiscal year.

18. An amount of Rs10 billion has been earmarked for projects in the energy sector though only Rs2 billion could be spend on this head in the ongoing fiscal year.

19. A total of 1,200 new buses will be included in the urban transport system.

20. Jinnah Abadi Scheme will be continued in the next fiscal year and 115,000 deserving people will be given free-of-cost plots.

Negatives

1. The 16 per cent increase – from Rs656 billion to Rs781 billion – under the head of general revenue receipts appears to be unrealistic because the Punjab government itself is not very optimistic about receiving Rs651 billion from the federal divisible pool.

2. There is an apparent bias in the favour of big cities, especially Lahore, for which most of the development schemes have been planned, such as the Bus Rapid Transit System costing Rs11 billion. In comparison, only Rs2.2 million have been allocated to the Accelerated Southern Punjab Development Programme, and the allocation for the Southern Punjab Development Programme has been reduced from Rs10 billion to Rs8.3 billion.

3. The Punjab government seems unwilling to assume its financial responsibilities with regard to education and health sectors after their devolution to the provinces under the 18th Constitutional Amendment. Though the budget for the two sectors has been slightly increased in the next fiscal year, it is not in keeping with the needs of Pakistan’s largest province in terms of population.

4. The utilisation of the development budget remained dismally low in the outgoing year; as per the revised estimate, only Rs165 billion of the allocated Rs220 billion would be spent by June 30. Considering this the monumental increase of Rs55 billion seems unrealistic and could be termed an election gimmick. Also, this amount may not be forthcoming and it begs to be answered from where the operational shortfall of Rs30 billion would be met.

5. The increase of more than 51 per cent in the development budget over the ongoing fiscal year’s revised budget estimates raises serious doubts about the quality of service delivery, considering the lack of adequate infrastructure to absorb funds in such huge quantities.

6. The development budget for education in the next fiscal year has been estimated at Rs25 billion, while it is expected that only Rs15.8 billion would be spent under this head by the end of the ongoing fiscal year, against the originally earmarked Rs23.9 billion. One wonders if someone would be held accountable for this financial lapse.

7. Similarly, the development budget for health in the next fiscal year has been estimated at Rs16.5 billion, while it is expected that only Rs11.5 billion would be spent under this head by the end of the ongoing fiscal year, against the originally earmarked Rs16.3 billion. One wonders if someone would be held accountable for this financial lapse.

8. The share of development expenditure in the total budget outlay has decreased from the outgoing year’s 33 per cent (Rs220 billion out of Rs655 billion) to 32 per cent (Rs220 billion out of Rs783 billion). However, if revised estimates are made the basis of comparison, a positive scenario emerges since the share of development expenditure in the total budget outlay comes to only 26 per cent in the outgoing fiscal year.

9. The capital receipts have been estimated at Rs15.6 billion in the next budget. In the ongoing year, their original estimate was Rs35 billion, but it was later revised to just Rs3 billion. The anticipated increase of more than Rs12 billion or 300 per cent over the last year’s revised estimates appears to be unrealistic.