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LAHORE: Under the Social Protection Initiatives and as a part of relief measures, the Punjab government has set aside an amount of Rs 100 billion in its budget 2022-23.

As per budget document, Rs 39.93 billion have been allocated for free medicines, Rs 17.89 for subsidy on transport, Rs 17.32 billion for subsidy on agriculture, Rs 6 billion for meeting environmental and climate change challenges, Rs 5 billion for subsidy on ghee, Rs 2 billion for subsidy under Ramazan package, Rs 2 billion for drought and plantation, and Rs 0.44 billion for e-credit facility for small farmers.

Apart from this, Rs272.60 billion have been allocated for social sector and women development in the budget 2022-23.

During FY2021-22, the fallout from Covid-19 continued to exert pressure on finances of the government. The year also witnessed rising trends in international commodity prices, with accompanying domestic inflationary pressures and widening of the current account deficit.

As per budget document, the primary concern for FY2022-23 remains high inflation caused by higher petroleum prices, increase in gas/ electricity tariffs, continuation of geopolitical crisis and supply side risks, impact of rupee devaluation with adoption of restrictive monitory policy by the central bank.

The Punjab government is initiating programmes to enhance safety nets while keeping substantial development investment to spur growth. Continuity of tax relief measures for businesses and sectors most hit by the economic downturn will provide the necessary impetus for recovery. The Punjab government has strived for a delicate balance amongst tax relief, resource generation, social protection and essential development.

In the difficult times, Punjab is adopting prudent budgetary targets with renewed focus on enhancing social safety nets for marginalized sections of the society. An effort has been made for effective utilization of resources to facilitate and support economic activity in the province.

As per budget document, budget 2022-23 is ambitious, yet carries fiscal discipline. The total General Revenue Receipts of Government of the Punjab are being targeted at Rs 2,521.3 billion; including Federal Divisible Pool transfers of Rs 2,020.7 billion and Provincial Revenues of Rs 500.5 billion. The current expenditure of the Government is expected to be Rs 1,711.9 billion.

However, Chief Minister Punjab Hamza Shahbaz told media on Thursday that the Punjab government despite difficult conditions presented a tax-free and people-friendly budget.

“We are working devotedly to steer the country out of crises by putting on stake our political interests,” he said, adding: “The people are well aware of track record of public service by the PML-N and we are taking difficult decisions for the sake of country.”

Under the historic relief package amounting to Rs 200 billion, 10-kg flour bag is now available at Rs.490/ while Rs.134 billion subsidized package has also been given, he said.

Hamza disclosed that free medicines would be provided in the Tehsil Headquarter hospitals and Health centres of Punjab from 1st of July, adding that the cancer patients would also be provided free medicines. “My mission of life is service to the people and we would devote all energies and resources for the protection of interests of marginalized sections of society,” he said, adding: “Price control committees are functioning and directions have been issued to ensure that prices of 8 basic essential items are not increased.”

Hamza criticized his predecessor (Usman Buzdar) for moving LHC for getting his perks and privileges. He regretted that only 30-percent of Safe City Cameras were operational but the Punjab Cabinet did not approve funds in the last four years to get these cameras operational.

The CM also slammed ‘Imran Niazi’ and Pervaiz Elahi for causing unrest and making mockery of law and Constitution and said the PML-N would continue public service and would steer the country out of prevailing crises.

To a query, he said whatever they had acted for budget session was in accordance with law and in the interest of the people of Punjab. He asked PTI to abstain from creating hurdles in public service.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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