THE countrys largest province was the third to present its budget, which was the third presented by Finance Minister Tanvir Ashraf Kaira to the Punjab Assembly on Monday, with a size of Rs 580 billion, including an ADP component of Rs 193.5 billion. Mr Kaira belongs to the PPP, but that does not affect his being part of the Shahbaz government, whose budget this very much was. The Budget was in line with that of the other provinces in that it reflected the additional funds made available to the provinces by the National Finance Commission Award only this year. However, at the same time, the 25 percent cut in non-development spending, which would start with the CMs Secretariat, and would include ministers salaries, came in response to public demand. Since the other perks of being a minister far outweigh the salaries, there will be no sudden rush from the Cabinet, and the competition to get in will remain as intense. As was perhaps inevitable in a Budget prepared by a coalition, it reflected a number of popular desires, such as the announcement of the seats in engineering institutions and medical colleges, including the setting up of three new medical colleges. Similarly, the Budget had some provision for the energy crisis, in the shape of a subsidy for tubewells that switched to solar energy. At the same time, the Budget also went ahead with the pay raise for its employees, following the example of the federal government, at a cost of Rs 54 billion, even though the ruling PML(N) had chosen to make the lack of consultation before this raise something of an issue while debating the federal budget. The Punjab government decided to keep on with the Sasti Roti scheme. It also decided to tackle an impending problem, that of youth unemployment, through a Youth Employment Fund, and by announcing that veterinary and agriculture graduates would get 25 acres each, not only arranged for 30,000 acres to be usefully employed, but also arranged for those graduates employment. Similar is the scheme to provide 400,000 acres to prizewinning farmers, using land obtained by ending illegal occupation. Another problem that the government had to tackle in the Budget was that of South Punjab. As such, the Punjab is the only province with this particular problem, where a region has defined itself as deprived, and which has to be provided funds. Be that as it may, Mr Kaira told the House that South Punjab had been made the recipient of schemes worth Rs 135 billion, of which Rs 42 billion had been released in the current financial year, and Rs 52 billion would be released in the coming year, and that 36 percent of the ADP was going there for 31 percent of the population. It was not a memorable Budget, but it was still one on which the government could congratulate itself.