Rs 34.8 billion tax-free Balochistan budget unveiled

QUETTA (June 21 2003) : Balochistan Finance Minister Ehsan Shah presented Rs 34.8 billion tax-free budget for 2003-04 in the provincial assembly here on Friday.

This is the first budget of the democratically elected provincial government of PML(Q)-led coalition with Muttahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) as major partner.

There are no new taxes in the budget.

Non-development expenditure has been estimated at Rs 25.5 billion while Rs 9.3 billion is for development expenditure.

Expenditure on development programme includes Rs 4,835.9 million from revenue, Rs 1,300 million from DERA/ DIMRC and Rs 1192.6 million foreign funded assistance, 1000 million from prime minister development package and Rs 971.5 million from deficit financing.

Finance Minister said there will be four sources of revenue receipts for Balochistan during next financial year. These would include Rs 9012.6 million as shares in taxes, Rs 8127.7 million as straight transfers, Rs 5965.7 million as grants and Rs 1536.6 million as provincial own revenue receipts.

MEGA PROJECTS: Ehsan Shah said that federal government has initiated several steps for Balochistan development.

Under this initiative, 16 mega projects, already under way, would be further accelerated.

These include coastal highway, deep-sea port at Gwadar, jetties at Gaddani and Ormara along Arabian Sea drought package, Mirani dam across River Dasht, Makran, Kacchi canal from Taunsa barrage, Punjab, to irrigate arable land in Balochistan and completion of gold-copper project at Saindak in Chagai district.

The finance minister said during 2003-04, 444 new schemes and 308 on-going schemes would be implemented. Substantial funds have been set for road building, education, health, sanitation and healthy water drinking.

FORCE: During new financial year 10,000-strong Balochistan Constabulary force would be raised. On one side such force would ensure better law and order for the people, while on the other side it provide employment for the people. Police training school at Quetta would be upgraded to college status.

BUDGET REVIEW: Giving budget review for the financial year 2002-03, the minister informed the House that Rs 24,896.3 million was to be transferred to Balochistan from the federal government.

Revenue of Rs 1538.3 million had to be generated from province's own resources, but a gap of Rs 1292.1 million caused by cut in financial resources reduced the amount to Rs 25,142.5 million against originally projected amount of Rs 26,434.6 million.

COMMISSION: He said that according to provincial Finance Commission award, 31 percent of total Balochistan budget had to be earmarked for district governments.

Similarly, 2.5 percent share has to be transferred to the district governments from general sales tax.

Such allocation would facilitate district governments to prepare and present their own budget during the new financial year.

SHORTFALL: The finance minister said that there was a shortfall of Rs 2147.6 million during 2002-03. There was increase in expenditure due to four factors detailed below:

1. The Provincial Government had earmarked Rs 1400 million for payment of interest on loans. As there was no relief in debt servicing, so this sum shot up to Rs 2925.0 million.

2. The Balochistan government had to bear 30 percent expenditure on tube-wells facility for the people in the province. As such, the government paid Rs 15 million to Wapda under this head.

3. Provincial government also paid Rs 1614 million to Minfal on account of subsidy on wheat for provincial consumers.

4. The government also paid Rs 851 million for debt payment, so as to reduce expenditure on interest for credits.

Earlier, the Balochistan budget for 2003-o4 was approved by the Provincial Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Jam Yousaf.

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