Lahore - The Punjab government is going to raise allocations for the Annual Development Programme (ADP) in the upcoming budget by over 10 percent to around Rs460 billion from the last year’s Rs409 billion, with major focus on health, education, clean drinking water, agriculture and infrastructure development.

More than 40 percent of the budget will be reserved for education and health sectors in the budget, while Rs100 billion will be earmarked for providing subsidy to the farmers during the next two years.

Several ongoing schemes and programmes of the Punjab government would continue in the next fiscal year like Laptop Scheme, Ashiana Scheme, Rural Road programme and interest-free loans for youth.

These views were expressed by Punjab Finance Minister Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, while addressing the Nawa-i-Waqt Forum, here on Wednesday.

The Forum was coordinated by Saifullah Sipra, while other speakers included JI leader in Punjab Assembly Dr Wasim Akhtar, All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran President Ashraf Bhatti and All Pakistan Workers Confederation General Secretary Khurshid Ahmad.

The minister said the province’s 2016-17 budget was in final stages, and it would include new economic opportunities for the common man.

She said special attention was being given to the development of far-flung and backward areas of the province as well.

She further said deserving people would be given interest-free loans to start their businesses.

Replying to a question, Ayesha said that some funds would also be reserved in next year’s development programme for the completion of ongoing schemes.

“The upcoming budget will directly benefit the common man by creating new job opportunities,” she assured.

She said like other parts of the country, Punjab was also suffering from power shortage. “But the provincial government is taking initiatives for building renewable energy plants to meet this shortage,” she assured.

The minister further said the Punjab government was well aware of the problems of the farmers due to a drop in the crop prices. “In view of this, the chief minister has earmarked Rs100 billion for two-year subsidy to the agriculture sector,” she added.

She said the government was implementing the policy of balanced development. “Special attention would be paid to the progress and prosperity of the people in the budget for the next financial year,” she pledged.

“Like previous years, more resources would be allocated for the progress and prosperity of the districts of south Punjab regardless of the size of their populations, as the government believes in balanced development,” Ayesha said, and added, “Next financial year’s budget would prove to be a harbinger of lasting development of the province and reflect public aspirations.”

“During the first 10 months of the ongoing fiscal year, 35 percent revenue growth has been recorded by the Punjab Revenue Authority. The number of registered taxpayers has also doubled to around 22,000 during the same period,” she claimed. She hinted that more services would be added to the GST, which is not in the tax net.

The minister said the Punjab government had focused on broadening the tax base by revamping the tax administration, automating it, easing the tax-paying system and creating tax awareness among the masses so that they proudly paid taxes.

“Now the Punjab government is working on other renewable energy generation projects, including wind. Other than this, the RLNG and coal power projects are also underway,” she said, and added, “It is my belief that when a government makes some investments then the private sector follows it.”

All Pakistan Wapda Hydroelectric Central Union Secretary General Khurshid Khan, while addressing the Forum, raised concern over the rising death incidents of line staff because of non-availability of standard safety equipment during work.

He demanded professional training of workers and strict observance of safety regulations at work place.

The trade union leader said that it was a fundamental right of the workers that the state provided them safe working conditions.

“UN has ranked Pakistan amongst the countries, having the highest number of road accidents,” he informed.

He said the workers not only in Wapda but also in engineering, chemical and textile industries fell victim to accidents and occupational diseases.

He demanded the government to first get amended outdated safety & health law, and then get it implemented in letter and spirit.

All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran president Ashraf Bhatti said the Federal Board of Revenue had been constituted to facilitate the businessmen, but it was presently doing the other way around.

He asked the FBR to focus on controlling under-invoicing and curbing the menace of smuggling besides expanding the tax base.

“However, sadly, FBR is playing arm-twisting by instituting cases for the recovery of outstanding dues,” he lamented. JI leader Dr Wasim Akhtar stressed the need for introducing interest-free Islamic Financial System as per the constitution of Pakistan.