The federal budget for the fiscal 2017-18 appears to have set very high targets with its highest ever volume of Rs4.74 trillion. No doubt, the finance bill is being termed a growth-ambitious document with the government eyeing a six percent growth rate this fiscal year, which remained at 5.27 percent – against a target of 5.7 percent – during the fiscal year 2016-17.

Apart from these ambitious targets, what could be the distinguished feature of this financial budget is the 40 percent increase in the development budget (Public Sector Development Programme or PSDP) with the allocation of Rs1001 billion for 2017-18 from the previous year’s allocation of Rs715 billion. The huge allocation of PSDP reflects the sitting government’s seriousness towards nation building and economic stability.

The PSDP is the main instrument available to the government to provide budgetary resources for development projects and programmes. In fact, the entire public sector investment encompasses development expenditure undertaken by the federal government through the PSDP, provincial governments to support resource mobilisation for various development projects and programmes in different sectors of the economy.

According to the financial bill, around 1,148 projects will be funded in various development sectors during the fiscal year 2017-2018. However, the government’s budgetary reprioritisation is very much clear this time as the PSDP has got remarkably the highest ever amount of Rs2113 billion (Rs1001 billion for federal departments and Rs1112 billion for the provinces).

Under the federal PSDP, Rs838.57 billion will be funded through local components, while Rs162.43 billion will come through the foreign exchange component. Significantly, strategic sectors like communications, water and power and energy generation have now been given special priority in the PSDP.

There is a saying in China that ‘if you want to develop a region, you just build a road there’. Following this formula, the government in Islamabad has allocated a huge chunk of Rs333 billion for communication. A major portion of this amount (Rs320 billion) will be given to the National Highways Authority (NHA) for constructing highways and other roads.

The road network is considered the life arteries of a nation. The PML-N rulers’ have established this fact through drafting an extensive network of roads throughout the country. This allocation is fixed for executing various projects like the Green Line Bus Rapid Transit system, railways projects in addition to constructing main highways and link roads to connect the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Currently, various sections of main highways are being constructed with huge budgetary allocations which, after completion would certainly lay a strong foundation for sustainable development and economic prosperity in the country in the coming years.

This time, the sitting government has also shifted its focus towards the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and other militancy-affected regions with a priority of mainstreaming these regions. With this focus, an amount of Rs45 billion, out of a total of Rs242.5 billion, allocated for special programmes in the PSDP 2017-2018, has been earmarked for relief and rehabilitation of the IDPs. The issue of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is still lingering which, no doubt, has hampered routine life in the troubled regions. However, it is a positive sign that the federal rulers, in collaboration with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government are going to initiate the IDPs rehabilitation with the aim to start routine life there. Fresh reports suggest that if these IDPs return to their hometowns for permanent settlement, it would contribute a lot in not only triggering local economic activity but also encourage their mainstreaming process.

Same is the case with other sectors, as enhanced chunks of budget have also been earmarked in the PSDP. Under the special programmes, Rs45 billion has been allocated for security enhancement throughout the country, Rs40 billion for the federal developmental programme, Rs30 billion for PM Global SDGs Programme, Rs20 billion for PM’s Youth Initiative, Special Gas Infrastructure Development Fund has been allotted Rs25 billion, Energy for All Rs12.5 billion and a special provision for completion of CPEC project of Rs5 billion.

Higher education too, remains successful in securing a good place among the government priorities as the Higher Education Commission (HEC) will get Rs35.7 billion against the previous year’s allocation of Rs21.5 billion in the current budget. Higher education, which is considered the future foundation of a nation, did remain ignored during the previous PPP government as budgetary funds were reduced drastically and a number of research programmes could not see the light of day. However, things started improving with the installation of a new government in Islamabad after the 2013 general elections. Higher education was given due priority with major overhaul and reforms introduction. This sector has been revived with more powers and independence in its mandated areas.

The energy sector is now amongst the selective priorities in the budget with enhanced allocation of over Rs60 billion against the previous year’s Rs36 billion. Various energy projects have been initiated and planned for the current fiscal year with the main purpose of overcoming the energy shortfall in the country. Besides this, the water and power sector has been successful in getting a massive allocation of Rs36.7 billion. The government has already undertaken a number of water projects and this allocated amount will help in timely execution of these projects. Of course, this would improve the overall water availability mechanism particularly for agriculture purposes.

Credit goes to the sitting government for presenting its fifth consecutive budget with targets. The country has achieved 5.27 percent GDP growth rate, which is the highest recorded during the last ten years. The economic and tax reforms have started yielding positive results which is manifested from the fact that Pakistan is ranked amongst the world’s top ten states in terms of reforms.

On the front of PSDP, record allocation will certainly boost the economic activities in the country. Though the country is confronting a number of challenges at both external and internal fronts, the national economy is set to see a positive glide. True, things can’t be changed overnight, however, a clear vision is the basic instrument of achieving success. And the fact that the government has it is evident from the reports and surveys done on Pakistan’s reforms. The only point is to give the economy an opportunity to prosper. And this is doable only when we all ensure an enabling environment without any political divide.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Under the federal PSDP, Rs838.57 billion will be funded through local components, while Rs162.43 billion will come through the foreign exchange component.