Kashmir: Rs108.2bn AJK budget unveiled amid opposition’s sloganeering

Kashmir: Rs108.2bn AJK budget unveiled amid opposition’s sloganeering

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MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s (AJK) record Rs108.2 billion budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year was unveiled by Finance Minister Dr Najeeb Naqi before the Legislative Assembly on Monday, amid unceasing ruckus by the opposition.

The budget proposed a staggering Rs82.7bn (76.43pc) for recurring expenditures, more than 80pc of which would go into salaries and pensions, and Rs25.5bn (23.57pc) for developmental activities, an amount which was 10pc higher than the current year.

As the house started proceedings, with Speaker Shah Ghulam Qadir in the chair, opposition lawmakers wearing black armbands sought his permission to table an adjournment motion about the recent “objectionable” interview of former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The speaker did not allow the move, maintaining that no other business could be held in a session convened for budget presentation.

Allocation for development activities
10pc higher than current year’s

This kicked up ruckus in the house, with some opposition members standing on their seats and shouting anti-Nawaz slogans.

However, Jammu Kashmir Peoples Party chief Sardar Khalid Ibrahim did not subscribe to the stance of his colleagues about Mr Sharif.

“I cannot call a three-time prime minister a traitor, but I fully support the demands of opposition, which has been compelled to stage protest by the wrongdoings of THE government,” he said.

The finance minister began and concluded his speech amid deafening noise and sloganeering, which made it quite difficult to understand him.

He informed the house that the present government had taken up AJK’s long pending issues with the central government “with such a courage and logic that had no precedent in the past seven decades”.

The minister announced that the ratio of the revenue grants which AJK would receive under the NFC framework from 2018-19 had been increased from 2.27pc to 3.64pc and therefore the revenue deficit grants provided by the centre in the past had been abolished.

Under that formula, AJK would receive Rs49bn in 2018-19 as federal grants, he said.

Regarding other sources of income, he informed the house that Rs21.4bn would be generated from AJK’s internal resources, such as provincial taxes, electricity etc., Rs12.8bn would be received from the AJK Council as 80pc share in taxes generated from the AJK territory and Rs1.1bn as water use charges.

Furthermore, the federal government had also ensured to support a separate endowment fund that was being established for the affected population along the Line of Control (LoC), he said.

The minister said AJK’s recurring budget had witnessed an increase due to “multiple unavoidable reasons.” According to him, the AJK government would meet the additional expenses of salaries of around 4,000 employees of the previously federal funded lady health workers and population welfare programmes from its recurrent budget in 2018-19.

Of the recurrent budget, Rs500 million had been allocated for local body elections, prerequisite preparations for which had already been underway, he said.

He also announced 10pc ad-hoc relief allowance in the salaries and pensions of serving and retired government servants from July 1 as well as a 50pc raise in existing house rent.

He said AJK taxpayers had been acknowledged as active taxpayers in Pakistan following a recent amendment in the federal finance bill.

Development budget

The minister expressed gratitude to the federal government, particularly PML-N quaid Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for the generous increase in AJK’s development budget, raising it to Rs25.5bn, including foreign aid of Rs1.8bn.

Sharing major allocations, he said Rs10.38bn had been proposed for communications and works, Rs3.52bn for power, Rs2.22bn for physical planning and housing, Rs2bn for local government and rural development, Rs1.95bn for education, Rs1.475bn for foreign aided projects, Rs719m for health, Rs550m for forestry/fisheries/wildlife, Rs534m for industries/minerals, Rs500m for agriculture and livestock, and Rs250m for tourism.

He said 71pc of funds would be spent on the ongoing projects and 29pc on new projects.

The minister said that the federal Kashmir Affairs ministry would separately spend Rs4.37bn on its projects in AJK.

Similarly, other ministries and divisions would spend almost Rs49bn under the federal Public Sector Development Programme, he said.__Dawn.com

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