LAHORE - The Punjab government has vowed to improve the use of funds allocated for the Annual Development Programme (ADP) in the budget for the fiscal year 2015-16.

This ADP allocation for the current budget is Rs 400 billion against Rs 345 billion in the preceding financial year. During general debate on the budget, the opposition had grilled the government on under-spending of the ADP budget last year owing to which many areas of the province, especially South Punjab, failed to have development schemes of clean water, electricity, education etc.

In the current fiscal year, the government has devised a strategy to ensure maximum spending of the money for development projects, which will not be less than 90 percent of the total ADP outlay, Punjab Finance Minister Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha told this scribe while sharing views on the Punjab budget. On the underuse of ADP funds last year, she attributed it to short availability of funds from the federal government as well as late recovery of revenue at the provincial level. She said such hurdles are not likely to come in the way in the next financial year and maximum money would be spent on the development projects in the province. For clean water, education and health, separate allocations have been made, she added.

The minister termed the budget revolutionary for the wellbeing of the masses and said youth are a special focus in the budget for providing to them jobs, skills and self-employment for which six major projects have been envisioned for the coming year. One million youth, male and female, will be trained under skill development programme to enable them to get jobs not only at home but also to compete at the international level, Dr Ayesha said. She said internship programme for the youth is another step towards their development. The minister said the government has a vision for empowerment of the women. Coupled with the youth programme, it would distinguish the current budget from that of the past, she said. A vibrant approach has also been adopted to implement Women Empowerment Programme, 2014, she added.

On the initiatives taken in the budget to improve the industrial sector, the minister said many schemes are also being initiated to encourage medium and small industry. She said the industrial productivity and manufacturing has been held central point in the budget to make Pakistani products competitive at the international level. Drastic reduction in the markup rate on loans along with the steps taken by the Punjab government will surely give a boost to the industrial sector where the government is encouraging private-public partnership which is a worldwide phenomenon to strengthen and enhance output, the minister added.

Dr Ayesha said, besides education and health and industrial productivity, the government is paying attention to the energy crisis as without this the production target in the agriculture and industrial sectors will hardly be achieved. A balanced approach has been adopted to use every source of energy production and, hopefully, the power problem will be addressed largely within the next financial year when many projects worth billions of rupees will be on the production line. However, she said complete end to the power shortfall would take some time for which projects have already been launched.

Answering a question, she said the government is determined to hold the local government elections in September this year and that the allocation of Rs 284 billion made in the budget would be used through the LG representatives.