LAHORE - In the pre-budget debate in Punjab Assembly which concluded last week, only 17 per cent of the total members came up with the budgetary proposals for the upcoming fiscal year.

Those who participated in the discussion were more concerned about the sorry state of affairs in the agriculture, health and education sectors. They urged the government to allocate more funds for these departments in the upcoming Punjab budget.

Assembly members summed up budgetary proposals in eight days during 13 sittings of the 20th session which lasted for 17 days. In a House of 371 members, only 63 participated in the pre-budget debate. Women lawmakers’ contribution in the budget debate was more than their respective strength in the Assembly. Out of total 76 women legislators in the House, 17 came up with budget suggestions.

Though the lack of quorum was pointed out only twice during the discussion, the House was never seen in quorum. Those participating in the budget debate found a few listeners on the Assembly floor. For most of the time, it was observed that only those members were present in the House who were waiting for their turn to make a speech.

Dr. Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, Minister for Finance, initiated the pre-budget discussion for the year 2016-17. She started off her speech by informing the House that 32 percent growth rate had been recorded in the last few years due to sagacious policies of the present government. She also appealed

to the legislators to come up with public friendly suggestions in their budgetary proposals on agriculture, livestock, education, health, employment, power generation and urban & rural development.

In the middle of her speech, lack of quorum was pointed out from the opposition benches and the House was adjourned till next day.

On the second day of pre-budget discussion, only two members Rana Muhammad Arshad and Mr. Muhammad Asif Bajwa participated in the debate.

On the third day, Opposition Leader, Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed suggested that upcoming budget should focus more on human development and education should be given the top most priority, as, according to him, over 10 million children in Punjab were out of schools. He also stressed the need for uniform education system in public and private schools. Rashid suggested that standing committees of the Punjab Assembly should be empowered to make budget for their respective departments.

Most of the members who participated in the discussion belonged to rural areas. They demanded more funds in the coming budget for agriculture sector highlighting miseries of the farmers who were not getting right price of their produce. They talked of more incentives for cultivators and opposed import of vegetables and fruits from India.

Most of the members in their speeches highlighted dilapidated condition of health and education facilities in the province. They criticized the government for mega projects like metro train, pleading that health and education of people was more important than infrastructure development.

Members from South Punjab reiterated their concern that development funds meant for their region were being spent on projects in Lahore. Opposition members complained that government was allocating development funds to treasury members while ignoring those from the opposition.

Concluding the discussion, Dr. Aisha Ghaus Pasha, Minister for Finance appreciated the proposals with the assurance that they would be incorporated in the budget. She ensured the House that the government would take all possible measures to provide relief to the people in the upcoming budget. She contended that the government would seriously consider the proposals presented by the members with regard to development schemes and those would be incorporated in the Annual Development Programme for the year next fiscal.