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LAHORE: In the Punjab Budget 2022-23, the Punjab government has proposed an allocation of Rs 240 billion, 35 percent of Punjab’s total development budget of Rs 685 billion, for south Punjab.

According to the budget documents, the allocation was ring fenced for south Punjab, meaning that the funds proposed for the region cannot be utilised for other parts of the province.

Of the total allocation, the government proposes to spend Rs 31,500 million on Sustainable Development Programme for South Punjab, Rs 2,879 million on the southern Punjab Poverty Alleviation Project (SPPAP), Rs 400 million on the Chief Minister’s Stunting Reduction Programme for 11 southern districts, Rs 250 million on Establishment of Futsal Courts, Rs 250 million on major rehabilitation/augmentation and missing facilities of existing sports infrastructure and Rs 15,00 million on the construction of South Punjab Secretariat and Government Officer Residence at Bahawalpur and Multan.

The document observed that Punjab faces a critical challenge of unequal development. All socio-economic indicators show south Punjab lagging behind the rest of the province. The sectoral comparisons of investments and outcomes point to a long-standing disparity between the south and the central and north Punjab. “This inequity reduces opportunities for economic growth and results in mass urbanisation as people tend to migrate towards developed regions,” it added.

According to it, after analysing poverty by districts and regions, it is found that over 42 percent of the households are poor in the south, compared to 19 percent for the rest of Punjab. In light of these development disparities, regional equalisation was one of the key priorities of the government.

“Punjab stands to gain significantly by improving inequity. One percent decrease in the inequity ratio will reduce multidimensional poverty by almost 0.4 percent. To this end, the government of Punjab has devised a multipronged strategy to enable regional equalisation.

“Industrial estates have already been established in Vehari, Rahim Yar Khan, and Bahawalpur. The government will enhance its efforts to develop the industrial sector in south Punjab. PIEDMC will be tasked to attain 100 percent colonisation in the next five years by developing technical institutes in the industrial estates and by creating employment opportunities for the locals. Efforts will also be made to attract foreign investment by declaring parts of the industrial estates as Special Economic Zones. The government will also invest in connecting routes to the Lahore-Sukkur motorway under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to increase regional connectivity,” it added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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