Electricity Break Down During Budget Session, Budget Focus Changed to Energy Sector
QUETTA: Amid Budget Session on Wednesday electricity broke down in the Balochistan Assembly bringing consensus of Budget emphasis on the energy sector.
In presenting the Rs244 billion provincial budget for fiscal year 2016, the Balochistan government said it will focus heavily on getting the province’s infrastructure on par with the rest of the country, especially in the area of energy, the necessity of which was highlighted when the electricity in the Balochistan Assembly briefly went down during the budget speech.
Amidst an opposition boycott, the budget was presented to the provincial assembly by Mir Khalid Langov, the finance advisor to Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch. The country’s smallest, least developed province does not have an elected finance minister. The budget is expected to have a miniscule deficit. The speech was briefly interrupted by a power outage in the assembly building, highlighting the government’s point for the need to invest heavily in improving the province’s energy infrastructure.
The provincial budget will include a Rs54.5 billion development budget, which is entirely financed by the federal development budget and a small amount of foreign assistance. The single biggest component of the budget, like that of other provinces, is education, which accounts for Rs40.9 billion, or 16.8% of the total budget. General public services account for Rs28.7 billion. Economic affairs, a catchall term for development projects undertaken by the government, will get Rs39 billion. Healthcare will get Rs15.4 billion and Housing will get Rs11.7 billion.
The provincial government will also add 5,000 public sector jobs in the province during fiscal 2016, said Langov. Balochistan will also match the 7.5% federal increase in salaries for government employees.
As the most cash-poor province in the country, Balochistan is seeking to maximise the efficiency of its spending. “To control unnecessary expenditures, the government has introduced a computerised system,” said Langov.
Recognising that the province is wracked by violence and an insurgency, Langov said the government will beef up the allocation for law enforcement by Rs708 million. The government will also spend an additional Rs215 million to increase the number of police stations in Quetta and buy equipment for law enforcement personnel. “The government has distributed Rs1.3 billion among the families of those victims who had suffered from the incidents of terrorism,” he said.
The highest allocation in the development budget went to energy, at Rs14.3 billion. “We have the energy sector’s allocation by 161% compared to the last fiscal year,” said Langov. Most of that, Rs13 billion, will go in the form of subsidies to farmers for their electricity needs. Another Rs1 billion will be spent on providing solar energy to 300 villages and another Rs157 to provide solar energy to government buildings.
The province will spend Rs2.5 billion on developing the education sector, a 17% increase over last year. That money will go towards building 200 new primary schools, and upgrading 456 primary schools to add middle school classes. The government will hire 1,741 new employees, most of them teachers, to manage this expansion. The government will also create four new colleges in currently unserved districts.
The most innovative policy proposal for healthcare in the budget speech was the introduction of a Rs2.4 billion health insurance programme, in addition to the allocation of Rs1.8 billion to provide free medications to people who cannot afford them.
The Balochistan government has allocated Rs12.1 billion for agriculture, livestock, fisheries and irrigation. Of that amount, Rs1 billion will go towards creating a new agriculture university, Rs3.5 billion towards the Phase II of the Green Balochistan project, Rs619 million for fisheries, Rs265 million for veterinary services to livestock, and Rs1.8 billion for eight major irrigation projects.
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