ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday directed his cabinet members to prepare an ‘extraordinary’ budget for the fiscal year 2018-19 before the government completes its term, sources said.

Abbasi chaired the federal cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office.

A federal minister who attended the meeting told The Nation that the premier asked the ministers to work together to present a budget that could give relief to the people. Financial experts believe the budget, expected late in April, will be an ‘election budget’ aimed at pleasing the common man.

The minister said the PM and his team believed a ‘relief budget’ would attract the public support in the upcoming general election.

“We are weighing our options. Above all the interests of the common man are being considered (for the budget),” he said.

Earlier, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Sartaj Aziz briefed the cabinet about the issues relating to the water management in the country and the first-ever draft water policy.

“Briefing the meeting about main features of the national policy framework, he said that the policy aims at the introduction of integrated water management for addressing water-related challenges,” an official statement said.

It said: “The policy addresses issues relating to enhancing water storage capacity, conservation, research and development, capacity-building of existing administrative departments, allocation of financial resources and establishment of the institutional set-up at provincial levels. Cabinet accorded approval for the presentation of draft water policy before the Council of Common Interests.”

The cabinet also approved the amendment in the “Limitation relating to Civil Revision Bill, 2018” to include “Hajj and Umrah (pilgrimage) Directorate” in Schedule-III as an attached department of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.

The cabinet approved placement of draft “Limitation relating to Civil Revision Bill, 2018” before the parliament, said an official statement.

It said: “The cabinet approved amendments to the Rules of Business, 1973. The amendments comprised of inclusion of ‘Hajj and Umrah Directorate’ in Schedule-III as an attached department of Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, the inclusion of ‘National Language Promotion Department’ and ‘National Library of Pakistan’ as attached departments of National History and Literary Heritage Division.”

The inclusion of ‘Pakistan Halal (lawful) Authority’ in the list of functions of Science and Technology Division was also approved by the cabinet.

National Fertilizer Development Center (NFDC) was transferred from the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform to the Ministry of National Food Security and Research and corresponding amendments in the Rules of Business were approved.

The cabinet also “approved the transfer of Pakistan Environmental Planning and Architectural Consultant Ltd from the Climate Change Division to the Planning, Development and Reform Division.”

The statement said: “Approval was accorded for placement of the “Institute of Science and Technology Bahawalpur Bill, 2018” before the parliament.”

The cabinet rejected a proposal to increase the rate of central excise duty on import of raw material for manufacturing of edible oil, vegetable ghee and cooking oil on mills in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas and the Provincially Administrated Tribal Areas.

The cabinet directed that the issue of rationalization of taxes be considered at the time of formulation of budget proposals, the statement said.

Constitution of ‘Search Committee’ for the appointment of Vice Chancellor, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University Islamabad was also approved by the cabinet.

“The committee will comprise Federal Minister for Health Services, Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training, Minister of State for Capital Administration and Development Division, Vice Chancellor University of Health Sciences Lahore and prominent educationist Dr Sania Nishtar.

Approval was accorded for the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Pakistan Academy of Letters and the Nepal Academy.

“Areas of cooperation include mutual exchanges of writers, poets and intellectuals. Moreover, it also includes collaboration in the translation of works of prominent scholars, poets and writers, joint publications, arrangement of training courses, promotion of literature and arrangement of joint exhibitions and conferences,” the statement said.

The cabinet approved the signing of an agreement on cooperation in the field of combating crime between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Appointment on vacant positions of commissioners in Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan was also approved.

“In order to solicit services of professionals in the public sector organizations, a proposal regarding the introduction of special pay scales was approved by the cabinet in-principle,” the statement said.