LAHORE - Winding up the budget debate in Punjab Assembly on Monday, Minister for Finance, Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman said told the House that Provincial Finance Commission could not be constituted immediately in the absence of elected Zila Nazims who are its members.
The Punjab government has allocated around Rs250 in the current budget for distribution among the districts through the PFC which is not in place at the moment. It means this amount would remain un-utilised till the local elections are held and elected nazims take charge of district governments.
The minister was responding to different questions raised by the Assembly members about constitution of PFC and distribution of funds among the districts through the commission
He also admitted that Punjab budget was not tax-free. According to the finance minister, only the effluent class has been taxed. He also clarified that only those five-marla houses situated in posh localities and falling under the ‘A category’ have taxed.
In his speech, the minister also dispelled the impression that the Punjab government was spending only 15 paisa per student as education expenses in the government-run schools. “In fact, the government is spending Rs1,500 per student”, he said.
Earlier, PML-N legislator Ali Asghar Manda demanded the federal government to construct Kalabagh Dam with the consensus of all provinces in order to combat the energy crisis. He suggested for formation of a national commission for the purpose.
PPP lawmaker Faiza Malik urged formation of Provincial Finance Commission for speedy transfer and utilisation of funds to the districts according to their share. She also demanded the PML-N government to fulfil its pledge of creating a separate province of South Punjab according to its party manifesto.
Haji Waheed Aslam Dogar from the Opposition stressed the need for giving more subsidies to the farmers. He said the government had allocated Rs28 billion for provision of subsidised flour to the people and if these funds would be utilised for the welfare of the farmers, the prices of the wheat would automatically fall. He also pleaded for a uniform education system in the province.
PML-Q legislator Amir Sultan Cheema said the government had failed to fulfil its election promises. He alleged that the PML-N had started politics of victimisation, as an average 20 to 25 FIRs were being registered daily against political workers in his constituency alone.
He also pointed out that the PML-N government had introduced a number of projects in its last tenure but later closed them which indicated that they proved a failure. He predicted that government’s said health insurance scheme would also fail soon like Sasti Roti, Green Tractor and Yellow Cab schemes.
Khan Mohammad Khichi from the Opposition said at a time when the government was claiming that education was its propriety, a large number of schools in rural areas do not have electricity facility. He said the government should provide missing facilities to such schools. Khichi further said that standing committees of the Assembly should be made more powerful and active.
Mian Mumtaz Mahrvi spoke about the grievances of the farmers. He said Punjab’s economics depended upon the agriculture sector but unfortunately it was being ignored over the years.
The PML-N legislators including, Qaisar Abbas Magsi, Bao Akhta, Ghayasud Din and others termed the budget 2013-14 as balance and pro-poor. They also congratulated the Punjab CM and Finance Minster for presenting the budget.
PML-N MPA Saba Sadiq urged for allocation of more funds for welfare of women. Minority MPA Shaneela Rot asked the finance minister for initiation of development projects for the minorities. She suggested five per cent quota for minority students in professional colleges.
She questioned as to why the government had reduced funds for the departments of Human Rights and Minorities from Rs320 to Rs210 million.