LAHORE - With added focus on development, education, health, energy, rural infrastructure and law & order, the Punjab government on Friday presented the budget for fiscal 2015-16 with an outlay of Rs1,447 billion (1.447 trillion), significantly higher as compared to Rs1,044 billion budget for the outgoing fiscal.

The province got a distinction as Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, the first female finance minister in the province's history, presented the budget in what was the 15th session of the assembly.

A number of new initiatives have been taken in various sectors which, many say, will benefit the government in the local elections due to be held in September.

Around Rs310 billion (27 percent of the total budget) has been set aside for education, Rs166 billion (14pc) for health, Rs144.39 billion (12.5pc) for rural infrastructure development and agriculture while Rs109.25 billion (9.5 percent) has been earmarked to improve law and order.

Finance Minister Dr Ayesha announced a 7.5 percent raise in pay and pension of public sector employees in line with the federal government’s raise, besides 25 percent increase in medical allowance for both serving and retired employees. She told the assembly that minimum wage of a worker was being fixed at Rs13,000 for the upcoming fiscal year against Rs12,000 of last year.

The government, instead of 16 percent sales tax, has decided to impose flat rate sales tax in the range of 2-10 percent on 12 sectors, including restaurants. A Restaurant Invoice Monitoring System will be implemented to bring the restaurants into provincial tax net. Moreover, Punjab Revenue Authority will set up offices in Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Multan and Faisalabad to widen tax net.

In the third budget presented by the incumbent provincial government, the current expenditure for next fiscal year has been enhanced by 7.6 percent while Annual Development Plan increased by almost 16 percent to Rs400 billion against Rs345 billion of current fiscal year.

The provincial government is expecting to receive Rs888 billion from Federal Divisible Pool under NFC award, besides getting Rs31 billion from the Centre under Straight Transfers. Punjab government’s revenue from its own sources is estimated at Rs256 billion, including Rs160.59 billion from tax collection and Rs95 billion from non-tax revenue. The tax collection target has been decreased to Rs160.59 billion from Rs164.7 billion target of outgoing financial year.

The finance minister said that energy projects of around Rs618 billion under federal and provincial governments are in progress in Punjab with Rs258 billion contribution by the provincial government. An amount of Rs.603 billion has been earmarked for under-completion energy projects in Punjab during next three years.

An amount of Rs80 billion will be spent on 1,320 megawatt (MW) coal-based energy project in Sahiwal while Rs135 billion at Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park Bahawalpur. Rs300 billion will be spent on 300MW coal-based power project in Pind Dadan Khan, Rs110 billion on 1200MW power plant in Sheikhupura, Rs33 billion on two power plants of industrial estates in Lahore and Faisalabad. Rs90 billion will be spent on four power plants in Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad and Sialkot and Rs10 billion on Marala, Pakpattan, Chiyanwali and Dig outfall hydle power projects.

The government has allocated Rs150 billion for rural road construction with a view to speed up transportation of agri produce while Rs4.58 billion has been fixed for Drip and Sprinkler Irrigation on 120,000 acre agricultural land. In the same way, an amount of Rs5 billion has been announced to provide 25,000 tractors at subsidised rates and Rs1 billion for agri inputs. In the budget Rs8.59 billion has been allocated for livestock sector while model cattle markets will be established in different cities in next fiscal year.

For ‘Punjab Saaf Pani Programme’ Rs11 billion has been allocated in next fiscal year while overall Rs70 billion amount will be spent on provision of clean drinking water in rural areas of the province in next three years.

The Punjab’s overall outlay for education is Rs310 billion for initiates including new universities in Jhang and Sahiwal, four new Danish Schools, computer labs in 990 high schools and missing facilities in 7,500 schools.

The minister announced that Rs10.82 billion has been allocated for provision of medicines in public sectors hospitals, Rs2.5 billion for Health Cover Scheme - to be initiated in 8 districts in first phase - and Rs3 billion for Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute and Research Centre.

Rs4 billion was allocated to impart technical training to 20,000 youth till 2018 while Rs2 billion was allocated under Punjab CM Employment Scheme. Under this scheme around Rs11 billion interest-free loans were given to 600,000 people so far. Rs2 billion was allocated for Punjab Social Protection Authority for scholarships to disabled person and Rs1 billion for students from minorities.

The PML-N government will continue Apna Rozgar Scheme worth Rs31 billion and Punjab government will contribute an amount of Rs6 billion for 50,000 yellow cabs, to be provided to unemployed youth.

Rs4 billion will go for Safe City to install state of the art equipments and cameras in big cities of Pindi, Faisalabad and Gujranwala to control terrorism. Police will get Rs94 billion and Rs18 billion will be spent on judiciary while 317 new district and session judges will be appointed.

Punjab government will spend Rs32.16 billion for the welfare of women out of next year’s development budget which include 15 percent quota for women in government jobs, three year relaxation in age, establishment of daycare centres and hostels for working women.

The major projects in South Punjab for next three years include Rs26 billion Multan Metro Bus, Rs30 billion clean drinking water programme, Rs150 billion Solar project, Rs67b rural roads programme, Rs9b Kh Farid University in Rahimyar Khan and Agri University in Multan, and Rs4 billon Southern Punjab Poverty Alleviation Programme.