AJK assembly approves over Rs141bn surplus budget

MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Legislative Assembly on Tuesday approved the state’s Rs141.4 billion surplus budget for fiscal year 2021-22 within hours of its presentation by Finance Minister Dr Najeeb Naqi while suspending rules governing the issue.

The fifth and last budget of the PML-N government estimated an income of Rs114.4 billion from different internal and external resources during the next fiscal year, of which Rs113.4 billion was proposed for recurring expenditures and Rs1.018 billion for the overdraft adjustment.

It proposed Rs28 billion, to be provided by the government of Pakistan, for the annual development programme (ADP) which includes foreign aid of Rs2 billion. The budget session was presided over by Speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir and his Deputy Sardar Aamer Altaf, with 20 lawmakers in attendance, as the majority of them preferred to stay in their constituencies to concentrate on their election campaign.

Dr Naqi said the government estimated to generate Rs31.5 billion in tax revenue – Rs22.6 billion as income tax and Rs8.9 billion as provincial taxes (excise duty and so on), Rs59.5 billion as 3.64pc share in the federal taxes pool (variable grant), Rs22.1 billion from the state’s internal resources (mainly electricity), Rs700 million from water-use charges and Rs600 million from capital receipts (loans and advances).

Infrastructure sector to get 68pc of development funds, revised budget of 2020-21 also presented

The finance minister said that the budget was not just an account of income and expenditures of a government but a complete reflection of its national resources, ambitions, creative abilities and future planning.

“I can claim with full confidence and courage that our government made the best possible utilisation of resources in accordance with our manifesto and expectations of the masses.

“When we took over we inherited a deficit of Rs25 billion in recurring expenditures but we are leaving with an increase of Rs10 billion in it,” he added.

Commenting on the ADP, he said it was 14pc higher than the current year. Additionally, he added, the federal government had spared Rs4 billion in its 2021-22 budget to be spent through the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs on its ongoing projects in AJK.

According to him, 66pc of development funds had been spared for completion of around 176 ongoing projects and the rest for 209 fresh initiatives during the next fiscal year.

The infrastructure sector would get 68pc of the development funds followed by 22pc by the social sector and 10pc by the productive sector.

Giving details about major development budget allocations, he said communication and works (C&W) would get the highest share of Rs10 billion followed by Rs4.8 billion to physical planning and housing, Rs3.2 billion to education, Rs2 billion to power, Rs1.7 billion to health and Rs1.7 billion to local government and rural development.

The minister also thanked the federal government for setting aside a generous development aid for AJK, notwithstanding its own fiscal woes.

“The provision of fiscal resources for AJK’s development programme is evidence of the federal government’s keen interest in the progress of this territory on the one hand and its trust in [the performance of] our government on the other,” he said.

Recurring expenditures

Giving details about major allocations for recurring expenditures, Mr Naqi said education would get the highest share of Rs33.4 billion followed by Rs23 billion for pensions, Rs11.5 billion for health, Rs8.9 billion for electricity, Rs7.2 billion for police, Rs5.4 billion for general administration, Rs4.1 for C&W, Rs2.8 billion for wheat flour subsidy, Rs2.09 billion for judiciary, Rs4.2 billion for miscellaneous grant and Rs2.1 billion for board of revenue, relief and rehabilitation.

He added that serving government employees would get ad-hoc relief allowance, equivalent to 10pc of the basic pay as well asthe disparity reduction allowance equivalent to 25pc of the basic paywhile retired employees would also get a raise of 10pc in their pensions.

The government increased the ratio of orderly allowance admissible to all BS-20 officers in the civil secretariat and other departments in the capital from Rs14,000 to Rs 17,500 per month apart from increasing the uniform/laundry allowance of grade IV employees by 100pc, he said.

Revised budget for 2020-21

Earlier, the minister also presented the revised budget of 2020-21 to the tune of Rs132.5 billion, including Rs24.5 billion for development expenditures. The revised budget saw a drop of Rs7 billion in recurring expenditures against Rs115 billion approved in June last year.

After the minister concluded his speech, the house referred the finance bill 2021-22 to the standing committee concerned and was adjourned till afternoon.

When it met again, the report was presented by Mr Naqi and the house approved all proposals without holding any debate.

On this occasion, Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider also delivered a lengthy speech during which he spoke about several issues; he and Speaker Qadir thanked lawmakers from both sides for their cooperation in smooth functioning of the assembly. Later the chair adjourned the session sine die.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2021


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