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LAHORE: Punjab Finance Minister Sardar Awais Leghari has said that during the preparation of the Punjab Budget 2022-23, the overall strategy was to give relief to the poor people, invest in the annual development program and ensure economic growth in the province.

He expressed these views while addressing a post-budget press conference here on Friday; he was flanked by Punjab Law Minister Malik Ahmed Khan and senior officials.

While highlighting the salient features of the Punjab Budget, Leghari said this government made a record allocation of Rs 685 billion for the Annual Development Program; “in addition to that a big relief based on subsidies was provided to the poor people who were burdened with high prices of essential commodities. The biggest relief will be given on atta (flour), which was available at a subsidised rate,” he added.

“The Chief Minister’s Rs 200 billion facility package under which a bag of flour sold to the people for Rs 650 was available for Rs 490. In addition, the Rs 142 billion concessional package, which will ensure the provision of food items to the poor and needy people at affordable rates was the result of individual efforts of the government,” he added.

“The government also focused on the development of infrastructure in Punjab; a huge investment was proposed on roads and transport. In the budget, visible allocations were made on the social sectors and the health sector will receive the biggest allocation,” he said.

According to him, the government intends to provide free medicine in government hospitals and improve its service delivery. A huge amount of money was allocated for the Universal Insurance Card, which was PML-N’s project launched during its previous government before the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government hijacked it in the form of the Insaf Card.

He pointed out that the wealthy segment of the society has no right to the facility of the health card since they can afford the healthcare from their pocket. “Hence, the government has decided to exclude this class from this scheme and subsequently the money that would be saved will be spent on the working and middle class. In this connection, a revised plan will be unveiled next week,” he added.

He observed that the development of provincial human resources was imperative and it linked with Punjab’s economic future, and hence the government had decided to invest in this vital sector.

While highlighting the importance of women’s rights, he said that the government has increased development expenditure by 40 percent for women empowerment whereas significant money was allocated for jail reforms to improve the conditions of inmates.

The finance minister said that they were revamping the solid waste management in the province, which was ruined by the previous government. “At present, there is no proper system for the disposal of waste. We will introduce a self-sustainable system that will keep Punjab clean permanently for which they have made a significant allocation,” he added.

“The Punjab government is introducing an integrated solid waste management system to provide a cleaner environment in the province, under which the services of private companies will be sought for cleaning the entire Punjab from villages to cities. The cost of which will be met by the local governments,” he added.

According to him, one of the major challenges facing the country at present is food shortage. To meet this challenge, the government was ensuring an increase in agricultural production. Farmers will be provided facilities according to the capacity of their land to ensure the cultivation of profitable crops. Innovative schemes for providing an adequate amount of water to crops were being introduced along with research in the field of irrigation related to agriculture.

He told the media that the government was committed to increasing the salaries and pensions of government employees by 15 percent from July 1; this will safeguard the middle class against inflationary conditions.

“On the technology side, the government plans to invest in artificial intelligence to exploit its potential; the youth will be trained with this latest technology, which will enable them to earn a livelihood while the government will benefit from remittance,” he added.

To a question, Leghari said that they will make up most efforts to get Punjab’s share of the Net Hydel Profit; “if the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa can get their share then why not Punjab. We are not responsible for the previous government if they compromised Punjab’s share,” he added.

On the occasion, Punjab Law Minister Malik Ahmed Khan said that three years of the previous government has ruined Punjab; “no one has paid attention to cleanliness or repair of inter-district roads. It was the worst form of governance that the province ever saw,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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