Rs152 billion budget for Balochistan -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Rs152 billion budget for Balochistan

By Nasir Jamal and Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: The provincial government announced on Monday Balochistan’s budget of over Rs152 billion for the next financial year, with a development programme of Rs26.75 billion and net deficit of Rs7.1 billion.

The government announced revival of the Levies force, abolition of district governments and restoration of the magistracy system and an ad hoc raise in pay, pension and medical allowance of government employees.

It also announced creation of at least 8,500 new jobs and regularisation of service of 11,500 police and Levies personnel.

The new jobs are in addition to about 5,000 created in the education department under the Aghaz-i-Huqooq Balochistan package of the federal government.

The budgetary outlay is almost double the estimates of Rs76.8 billion for the current fiscal year. The hefty increase is mainly on account of Balochistan’s substantially enlarged share of Rs83 billion from the federal divisible tax pool under the new National Finance Commission (NFC) award from just Rs29.2 billion this year.

The province will receive Rs12 billion in arrears, after acceptance by the federal government of its demands to raise with retrospective effect the well-head price of gas and the gas development surcharge (GDS). The funds to be transferred to the province under direct transfers are estimated to be Rs16.4 billion, up from Rs12.2 billion.

The federal grants on account of the NFC award and the Aghaz-i-Huqooq Balochistan package have been estimated at Rs12 billion.

The increase in funds from the divisible pool and reimbursement of well-head price and GDS arrears have raised revenue receipts by 95 per cent to Rs115.53 billion from Rs59 billion.

The province intends to raise Rs4.13 billion through taxes and non-tax receipts.

The revenue expenditure is estimated to be Rs83.44 billion, up 57 per cent from the estimates of Rs53 billion for the outgoing year. The increase is mainly on account of increase in pay, pension and medical allowance.

According to officials, the pay and pension raise is estimated to cost Rs17 billion. The raise will not apply to provincial government employees who have already been given twice their basic pay as monthly allowance and personnel of police, Levies and Balochistan Constabulary whose basic pay has been doubled.

On the revenue side, the budget documents indicate a surplus of Rs32.08 billion, compared with a net deficit of Rs12.43 billion in the provincial capital account with receipts standing at Rs29.39 billion and expenditure at Rs41.82 billion, which will be financed from the revenue surplus.

The remainder of the revenue surplus of Rs19.57 billion will be used to finance the provincial development programme, which is 44 per cent more than the current year’s estimates of Rs18.75 billion and 77 per cent higher than the revised estimates of Rs15.22 billion.

The funds expected to flow from foreign project loans of Rs3.92 billion and Japanese grants of Rs812 million will also be used for development spending, while the remaining gap of Rs7.1 billion between resources available for development and estimated expenditure will be funded through the province’s own resources.

In his budget speech, Finance Minister Mir Asim Kurd Gailu mentioned initiatives taken to reform the social and economic infrastructure, create thousands of new jobs mainly in the education and police departments with the help of the federal government under the Aghaz-i-Huqooq Balochistan programme and improve law and order.

He announced an increase in development and non-development spending on education, health, vocational training, agriculture, irrigation, clean drinking water, physical infrastructure and other sectors.

He said the provincial government had succeeded in getting Rs120 billion in GDS arrears outstanding since 1954, which would be paid in annual instalments of Rs12 billion.

He said the province would get Rs10 billion under the Aghaz-i-Huqooq Balochistan package. The new NFC award has increased the resources of Balochistan.

The minister conceded that increasing incidents of terrorism and target killings had taken toll of precious lives and hampered economic activity, creating difficulties for development and improving governance.

Mr Gailu said revival of the Levies force had been a priority issue for the government. “This time-tested law-enforcement agency was effectively maintaining public order in 95 per cent of the province at an affordable cost. Today we have reverted to the system of policing in rural areas in accordance with public aspirations,” he claimed.

He said the government had allocated Rs10 billion to strengthen law-enforcing agencies to maintain peace and tranquillity in the province.

“We have decided to double the basic pay of the uniformed personnel of police, Levies and Balochistan Constabulary and regularised 5,500 police personnel who were recruited through the Conversion of B into A Area Project.

“Similarly, 6,000 personnel of Balochistan Constabulary have also been regularised. They were appointed by the federal government under a similar development project.”

He said the government intended to recruit about 1,500 Levies personnel to improve the force’s performance because it had suffered a lot in the ‘conversion process’.

The government has also allocated resources to install 37 security cameras in Quetta to monitor crimes, particularly target killings. “We are seriously thinking to extend the project to every nook and corner of the city to enhance the monitoring capacity of the police to maintain law and order.”

He told the assembly that Balochistan had taken a lead in wrapping up the district government set-up introduced by Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf and revived the office of the deputy commissioner.

“Lack of teachers in rural areas has been a daunting challenge for the provincial government. In order to fill this vacuum, the government has decided to dedicate 5,000 posts provided by the federal government under Aghaz-i-Huqooq Balochistan package to the education sector. We have also created nearly 2,000 fresh positions to address the problem of schools with single teachers.”

The minister said allocation for providing medicines to the poor had been increased from Rs290 million to Rs1.3 billion, Rs1 billion had been allocated for equipment, particularly in the periphery, and Rs100 million for repair and renovation of health institutions.
Source: Dawn