SKARDU -  The Gilgit -Baltistan Council on Wednesday approved a budget with a total outlay of about Rs 2.4 billion for financial year 2017-18 to Gilgit- Baltistan.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who is also the Chairman of the Council, chaired the meeting.

The Prime Minister in his remarks at the meeting said that the PML-N government was committed to the development of the Gilgit -Baltistan and assured that the Federal government would provide all necessary resources in this regard.

He said that PML-N was the only government in Pakistan that had the unique honour of not only initiating development projects, but also completing these on time.

He said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was a project aimed at bringing about a sea change in the national economy.

He said that the CPEC not only provides road connectivity but would also provide opportunities for the local communities to flourish.

He said that now it was up to the leadership of the Gilgit-Baltistan to optimally benefit from the project.

Abbasi said the Northern Areas were unique as its people were loving, sincere and friendly.

He said that democracy in the country was flourishing and now the second democratic government was in power and serving the masses.

He said that the people would bring into power only those who they seem fit, at the end of the term.

Abbasi also called for holding of regular meetings of the Gilgit Baltistan Council and said that it served as a bridge between the Federal government and Gilgit-Baltistan. 

He said that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was committed to the development of the area and had approved several socio-economic uplift projects.  

He said that the Federal government would continue funding of projects under its PSDP and urged the Council Members to find means for generating funds for local projects. He said that the GB leadership had to take difficult decisions. 

He said work on supply of the natural gas for Gilgit had already initiated and LNG's supply for Skardu could also start once the road was improved. 

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said Rs 32 billion for the construction of Gilgit-Skardu Road had been allocated, which would tremendously benefit the people of the area.

Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Barjees Tahir earlier presented the G-B Council’s budget for the current fiscal year worth over Rs 2 billion at the first meeting of the budget session of GB Council held in Islamabad last month.

He was appreciative of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his vision and thanked Prime Minister Abbasi for carrying forward his policies.

He said that Nawaz Sharif had particularly directed that the GB Council budgets should be passed locally and not in Islamabad.

Barjees giving details of the budget said that Rs .2398.25 million will come from tax receipts, while the total expenditure was estimated at Rs 2199.067 million.

He said that Rs 1474.016 million have been allocated for development projects while Rs 725.951 million for non-development projects.

The Minister-in-Charge Gilgit-Baltistan Council also presented the Audit Report 2016-17 and Appropriation Accounts of GB Council for the Year 2015-16.

The meeting was attended by GB Governor Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman and members of the Council.

The total revenue of Rs 2398.025 million includes Rs 1474.016 million for development, Rs 674.016 million for GB Council Development Programme (with Rs 50 million for each member), Rs 200 million for construction of GB Council Sect. building at Islamabad, Rs 100 mln purchase of land for Council Dept at Gilgit, and 500 mln for community development in GB.

The Business Advisory Committee members approved the budget in-toto including Finance Bill, Adaptation of Laws Bill, Haj quota for one gazetted and one non-gazetted employee of GB Council Secretariat and the Timber Policy.

Addressing a gathering after inaugurating Gilgit Baltistan University, Abbasi said that completion of term by the democratic governments was important to effectively address the problems of the people.

Abbasi said that the PML-N government was committed to serving the masses and had several development projects to its credit that proved that “it did not believe in making hollow promises”.

He said that the PML-N government was the only government which completed every single project it launched in the interest of common man.

He said that false pledges made by others for attracting mere votes did not make place in the hearts of people, however, the PML-N always gave priority to prosperity of people by bringing improvement to their areas.

Abbasi said that his government was committed to bring about a revolutionary change in the lives of people of Gilgit Baltistan.

He mentioned that he was in particular advised by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to complete all the earlier launched development projects of GB.

He said that unlike the previous governments, the PML-N government had increased funds for Gilgit-Baltistan and mentioned the projects of roads networks, health and education schemes that aimed at providing best possible services to people at their door steps.

Abbasi said that the educated youth of GB would play a leading role in taking the region forward, adding, that he was particularly pleased to inaugurate the Gilgit Baltistan University and also visiting the Skardu Cadet College.

He said that the issues of taxation for Gilgit Baltistan would be resolved.

He said that the lingering issue of timber had been resolved and hoped that it would be the last amnesty scheme.

He urged the people to plant more trees and said Pakistan was facing serious climate issues and needed more tree plantation.

Abbasi said that his government was committed to uplift of GB as one of the most remotest and beautiful areas of the country and was diverting big resources for the purpose.

He said that work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was going on at a fast pace and said it would usher in an era of progress and development that would transform the entire region. 

Chief Minister Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman said that the Gilgit Baltistan region had witnessed a great change during the past four years, for which the credit goes to Nawaz Sharif for the uplift of area.

He said that with completion of the Gilgit-Chitral road the region would get multiple connections and the dream of linking Gwadar to Gilgit was now a reality.