LAHORE  - The Punjab government has announced subsidies to the tune of Rs 17 billion, targeting the poor and the needy in the provincial budget 2008-09, presented to the Punjab Assembly on Monday. This also includes an amount of Rs 13 billion allocated for the free medical treatment of poor families and supply of essential food items at subsidised rates. Through this scheme, the poor will be given direct cash so that they could purchase essential commodities. The poor will also be given the medical treatment facility, free of cost, from private hospitals through this policy. The government has also planned to provide free dialysis medical treatment to the poor patients from private hospitals. Other subsides include provision of Rs one billion to write-off loans of widows and revival of Green Tractor Scheme. According to the Punjab Finance Minister Tanvir Ashraf Kaira, the allocation vis-a-vis subsidies has been made possible by rationalising and reducing the level of current expenditures in the province without comprising on effective delivery of public services. This allocation is meant for provision of cheap essential commodities particularly flour, edible oil, sugar and pulses besides health insurance policy and public transport facility for the poor. The loans of the farmers' widows would also be written off through this policy. The Punjab government will pay the small loans of the widows to the public sector banks in order to provide them relief under the special initiatives for poverty reduction programme. The govt has also announced that bus service equipped with air-conditioners for public schools would be launched to provide pick-and-drop facility to the poor and intelligent students. This service will be introduced in big cities of the province including Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Bahawalpur and DG Khan. The Minister also announced that the government in assistance with the private sector would bring at least 1,000 more air-conditioned buses to provide transport facility to the public in the six major cities of the province including Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Bahawalpur. He said that the government would provide Rs one billion subsidy in this regard. The Punjab government also announced to re-launch Green Tractor Scheme in the budget to boost the agriculture. The small farmers, having 12.5 acre piece of land will be provided tractors through computerised lucky-draw plan and Rs 100,000 subsidy would be given to each farmer against one tractor. The government intends to spend Rs one billion on this scheme and no less than 10,000 tractors will be given to the farmers. Punjab Finance Minister Tanvir Ashraf Kaira presented surplus budget for the fiscal 2008-09 with a total outlay of Rs 389.896 billion. The total revenue expenditure entailed in the proposed Punjab budget 2008-09 is Rs 256.948 billion, which stood at 9 percent against Rs 243.487 billion of the budgetary estimates of 2007-08, together with Rs 17 billion subsidy. In the proposed budget 2008-09, the current account receipts stand at Rs 136.528 billion, while current capital expenditure figure is Rs 122.934 billion. The provincial government while filling in the gap of Annual Development Programme expects to receive foreign assistance of Rs 12.237 billion whereas the provincial contribution in this regard would be Rs 147.762 billion. Presenting the budget, the Finance Minister said the Punjab government has tried its best to reduce the dependence on international loans by minimising its volume to Rs 23 billion. He said the government has decided to finance the development programme with the province's own resources. He said the government has decided to create price control boards to check hoarding and profiteering. In the Annual Development Programme for the budget 2008-09, there has been an increase of 66.7 percent in the education sector where total spending under this head would be Rs 30.129 billion. In the health sector having an increase of 23 percent, Rs 9 billion would be spent. The size of ADP in budget is Rs 160 billion. The provincial financial bill has a total surplus of Rs 132.94 billion while the funding would be entirely done by the province through its own resources. The provincial government would fill the gap of Rs 135.525 billion in ADP through capital accounts; public accounts and foreign assistance. He said 60,000 acres government land would be given to the educated landless farmers or the farmers with less than 4 acres of land. He said 144 schools would be made centre of excellence by providing Rs 3.65 billion. He said a provincial reorganisation committee is being formed to evaluate the unnecessary expenditure of the public sector, besides putting a complete ban on purchasing new cars, furniture, air-conditioners and other luxury goods by the provincial government departments. The provincial government with the increase of 52 percent in water supply and sanitation sector would spend Rs 8 billion in the proposed budget. The Punjab government has entailed Rs 17.5 billion for road sector development, Rs 11.3 billion for irrigation sector, and with the increase of 86.4pc, Rs 6.76 billion for urban development during the next financial year. In production sector with 214.5 percent increase Rs 3.382 billion would be spent on agriculture. In livestock with increase of 123.5 percent, Rs 1.9 billion would be spent. In industry, technical education and minerals, with increase of 113 percent Rs 2.2 billion would be utilised. He said Rs 1 billion would be spent on industrial development, which would be 225 percent against the allocation of previous year budget. In services sector, the government has enhanced 50 percent allocation and would spend Rs 1.5 billion on Information Technology .On commerce and investment, the provincial government intends to spend Rs 500 million, showing 462.6 percent increase over the current fiscal year. The Punjab government would spend Rs 2.5 billion on emergency services, enhancing the allocation by 38.6 percent. Showing an increase of 100 percent from the present financial year, the provincial government intends to spend Rs 100 million on tourism, labour, transport sector in the fiscal 2008-09. The provincial government allocation for 2008-09 in environment is Rs 1 billion; access to justice Rs 320 million; planning & development Rs 3.151 billion. Besides these measures, the Punjab government has allocated Rs 29 billion for special infrastructure which includes large city package; Lahore Ring Road; Sialkot-Lahore Motorway; Lahore Mass Transit project. For local governments development requirements in fiscal 2008-09, the provincial government has allocated Rs 8.41 billion. This amount is 41.7 percent less than that of allocation made for the current financial year. The provincial government following the increase of 1 percent in the sales tax also decided to enhance the sales tax from 15 to 16 percent. Agencies add: The Provincial Minister announced that government would provide maximum funds to ensure residential and other facilities to journalist community. The government, he said, also decided to give 20 percent increase on salaries and pensions of serving and retired public servants in the next fiscal year. In addition to this, medical and conveyance allowances of the government employees would also be increased, he added. Finance Minister said all undue incentives under various taxes to rich segment of the society have been abolished as well as some new taxes would also be imposed.