LAHORE -  The Punjab caretaker government on Tuesday approved Rs693 billion Budget for the period of four months under the Article 126 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The Constitution authorises the Caretaker Cabinet to approve expenditure for up to the four months from the Provincial Consolidated Fund.

Caretaker Minister for Finance Zia Haider Rizvi, while briefing the media regarding approval of Budget here at CM Secretariat, said that 10 percent raise has been approved in basic pay with revision of house rent allowance on the lines of federal government budget. Similarly, 10 percent increase in pension has also been declared, he added.

Though the finance minister did not mention the full year's budget details, yet the finance department officials said that the full year budget allocation is estimated at over Rs2.1 trillion against Rs1.97 trillion of the closing fiscal year, which has also been prepared but not approved, as the next elected government would have the authority to present it in the new assembly session and get the approval.

The caretaker finance minister said that next year combined tax collection target is proposed to be increased by 29percent in the budget estimates for 2018-19.  He said that in the Budget 2018-19, there is special focus on health and education sectors, as they benefit the common man directly, he added. These two are the priority sectors and massive allocations have been made in them.

In the budget estimates for 2018-19 development and non-development expenditures have been fixed for four months on pro-rata basis. There are certain front loaded expenditures which have been catered for in early four months of next fiscal year like election expenditures, natural calamities (flood, dengue etc.)

Allocations are proposed to be increased by 28.6percent in school education, 38.6 percent in primary and secondary healthcare and 25.8 percent in specialized healthcare and medical education.  At the end of FY 2018-19, there will be no negative cash balance, no throw forward of liabilities into next FY, he added. Expenditure control measures have also been approved in the Budget 2018-19.

Zia Haider Rizvi said that revenue generation by provincial government (Tax and Non Tax) has increased by 16 percent to Rs359 billion for FY 2018-19 compared to last year.

He further said that unnecessary expenditures have been controlled during next 4 months so as to control budget deficit. ADP is likely to reduce due to increase in the service delivery expenditures, salaries and pension. Although there is some space in the National Economic Council (NEC) limit for borrowing by the province but the decision on the same will be taken by the next elected government. Moreover, important decisions on the development side have also been deferred for the elected government.

Provincial Minister for Information and Culture Ahmed Waqas Riaz, Secretary Finance Sheikh Hamid, Secretary Planning and Development Iftikhar Sahu, Secretary Bilal Butt, Chairman PRA Raheel Ahmed Siddiqui and President Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Malik Tahir Javed were present in the budget briefing.

Meanwhile, Caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Dr Hasan Askari presided over the provincial cabinet meeting, which gave approval to four month budget of the fiscal year 2018-19.  The meeting gave approval to the proposal of ten percent increase in the salaries of government employees besides approving to review the house rent.

The meeting also gave approval to ten percent increase in the pension of retired government employees. The caretaker government gave approval to the development budget for four month for the new fiscal year 2018-19. The meeting also approved the estimates of recurring expenditures of four month of the upcoming fiscal year.

Cabinet to work with business  community

In a rare interaction with private sector, the Punjab Cabinet on Tuesday expressed the resolve to work with business community to ensure economic growth.

Members of the Cabinet delegation, led by Caretaker Finance Minister Syed Haider Rizvi, were speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The LCCI President Malik Tahir Javaid, Vice President Zeshan Khalil, representatives of Punjab Chambers also spoke on the occasion while Caretaker Minister for Industry Mian Anjum Nisar, Caretaker Minister for Energy and Irrigation Zafar Mahmood, Caretaker Minister for Labour, Transport and Livestock Mian Nauman Kabir, Caretaker Interior Minister Shaukat Javed, Caretaker Minister for Agriculture Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan, Caretaker Minister for Housing Saeedullah Baber and Caretaker Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Chaudhry Faisal Mushtaq were the other members of the Cabinet delegation.

Zia Haider Rizvi said that trade and industry is the major for areas for the Punjab government. He said that a mechanism has been evolved to run the affairs smoothly. He said that federal government has been asked to give share to Punjab in taxes on petroleum and other goods that are being consumed in this province.

"We are doing what we can to resolve the issues of the businessmen of Punjab as they are backbone of the economy", Haider said and added that harassment of business community is not acceptable.  He said that caretaker government of Punjab wants to develop a roadmap for the upcoming government.