LAHORE - Punjab Finance Minister yesterday turned down the Opposition claim that the Punjab budget for the fiscal year 2015-16 was infected with new taxes or that it was prepared without entertaining the input given by the Assembly members.

Winding up general debate on the Punjab budget at the floor of the Punjab Assembly, Finance Minister Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha also presented certain amendments made in Rs 550billion development programmes of the province for the next fiscal year. She said in the preparation of the budget not only MPAs but other stakeholders were also consulted.

The budget, she said is balanced with receipts and the expenditure both at Rs 1680billion. The minister told the House, presided over by Speaker Rana Iqbal Khan, that the Opposition was wrong in saying that Rs185billion new taxes have been imposed in the budget and added, against the preceding year collection of Rs150billion for the next year it was set at Rs 185billion wherein the additional amount would be recovered from plugging leakage of the taxes.

She also denied the Opposition claim that 0.9 per cent tax has been levied on the exports and said a total tax exemption has been provided on exports under the infrastructure development cess law. She said the provincial government wants to generate revenue so that its dependence on the Federal government could be minimized.

She said in the current budget increase of 32 per cent in the revenue collection is a result of the same efforts. She said their target is to broaden the tax net and bring those persons in who are not paying any tax despite the fact they are capable of paying the same. She said it has never been preference of the government to increase tax or impose new ones.

The minister also dismissed the Opposition claim the government is going to rob the poor under the garb of service sales tax and also that Punjab budget was surplus by Rs 402billion when the PML-N took over. Setting the facts in order, she in 2007-08 Punjab faced loan to the tune of Rs 305billion which was 5.3per cent equal to provincial GRP which in the budget 2015-16 was cut down to 3.3 per cent which indicated marked reduction in the provincial liability. Punjab loans are 100 per cent settle-able so no matter of worry.

The minister also assured the House the funds would utilised on the department they have been allocated for in the budget. The Minister said for the next budget a handsome amount of Rs 147billion has been earmarked for agricultural sector which falls in the priority of the Chief Minister programme.  She said from this budget farmers would also be given loans and subsidies on the agri articles. Of the Rs 50billion kissan package of the CM, she said, money would be spent in light of the input made by the experts and the farmers representatives who were gathered at the Agriculture Conference.

She said last year the agriculture came across difficulty which mainly was due to conditions at the international level. The Punjab government is determined to improve the lot of the farmers at all costs. She said over Rs 100billion loans and fertilizers and DAP at subsidised rates would be given to the growers. She said no mark up would be claimed from farmers on the loans. She said Rs seven billion subsidy would also be given on electricity on agri tube-wells. On the agri machinery GST has also been cut down to five per cent from 17 per cent.

Dr Ayesha said the side by the side agriculture development, improvement in the education sector is another top priority of the government which was poised to achieve the target of schooling every kids next year.

A total of Rs 256billion has been earmarked for Education for the next year as against Rs169billion of the current year. She also clarified the Opposition claim that 5000 schools are being privatized stating only the management of these schools is being outsourced to improve standard of education.

She said an outlay of Rs 207billion has been made for health sector for the next year. She turned down the claim that only 36 per cent of the current budget has been used on the health and assured the Opposition that a revolutionary programme in being implemented to achieve the targets set for the health sector next year.

The minister also addressed apprehensions of the Opposition on energy projects and said the Punjab government sponsored three projects for generating 3600mw energy in addition to that started through public private partnership to secure 6545mw electricity have been fed with funds and they are fast under completion to meet the energy crisis in time.

These projects will also procure cheap electricity to the public. She said 100mw from Quaid-e-Azam Solar project has entered the national system.

The minister said it was wrong on the part of the Opposition that industrial sector has been ignored in the next budget. Besides others, she said, next year three special industrial zones would be set up and added, with improvement in energy resources, the wheel of industry would begin to run fast.

She also replied the Opposition on Lahore Orange Line Train and said, it was part of the Lahore Rapid Mass Transit System which aims to provide cheap and quality transport service to the masses. Daily five lakh would benefit from the Lahore Orange Line.

Further proceedings of the session have been adjourned until 10am Thursday.