Punjab budget passed sans Opposition

LAHORE – For the first time in the political history of Punjab, the Punjab Assembly on Wednesday approved the provincial budget for the year 2022-23 in the absence of the Opposition which did not show up during the entire budget session declaring it illegal and unconstitutional.

The Assembly also passed the finance bill besides approving 40 demands for grants amounting to Rs 2734 billion concerning different departments. Since there were no cut motions this time from the opposition’s side in respect of the demands for grants, it provided the government a smooth sailing to pass the budget in the shortest possible time.

An exercise which usually takes two days to complete was wrapped up in just one hour. Also, the government did not have to ensure the presence of all its members in the House to vote on the monetary grants in Opposition’s absence. The Wednesday’s house proceedings leading to passage of the budget lacked the usual enthusiasm for the obvious reason. The usual rejoicing and desk thumping from the treasury was also lacking when the presiding chairman Khalil Tahir Sindhu announced passage of the annual budget.

Meanwhile, the government has sanctioned Rs.49.89 billion for law and order and police, Rs 81.50 billion for education, Rs 183.64 billion for health, Rs 20.4 billion for agriculture, Rs 24.91 irrigation, Rs 13.79 billion for jail, Rs 8.95 billion for communication, Rs 1.177 trillion for construction of roads and bridges and Rs 42.63 billion for subsidies. Through the finance bill, the Assembly gave approval to amendments in Punjab Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, Punjab Sales Tax on Services Act, Stamp Act, 1899 and other taxation laws to rationalize certain taxes and duties.

Passage of the budget lacked usual enthusiasm

Earlier, the government was unable to present the budget during the first two days of the budget session due to a deadlock between the government and the Opposition over a political issue. Led by Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi, the Opposition had demanded withdrawal of all cases instituted against the PTI leaders during the long march and a formal apology in this regard from the chief secretary and the IGP. While the government accepted the first demand it refused to concede the second one. As the stand-off persisted, Punjab Chief minister advised the Punjab governor to prorogue the session and call a new one at Aiwan-e-Iqbal instead of the Assembly chambers.

Eventually, the budget was presented and passed at a place other than the Assembly chambers. On the other hand, the Opposition requisitioned its own session at the Punjab Assembly which continues till date with intervals. The next sitting will be held on June 28. Also, the Punjab Assembly session led by the Treasury will approve the supplementary budget on Thursday (today). This will be the last sitting of the budget session called by the Punjab governor at Aiwan-e-Iqbal.

 

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