Promises of Rs 2.5tr for development as polls loom

* NEC approves 6 percent for both GDP growth target rate and for inflation freeze * PSDP funding for AJK and GB to almost double

Promises of Rs 2.5tr for development as polls loom

ISLAMABAD: The National Economic Council (NEC) on Friday approved country’s consolidated development budget of Rs 2.5 trillion for the upcoming financial year 2017-18, showing the highest-ever increase in the overall national outlay.

Addressing a press conference after the NEC meeting, Federal Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal said that the allocation included Rs 1,001 billion Federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), Rs 1,112 billion provincial PSDP while Rs 400 billion would be spent by various corporations to carry out their development projects.

The minister said that Rs 411 billion would be spent on infrastructure development, Rs 43 billion for different projects of Railways, Rs 404 billion for energy while Rs180 billion would be spent on projects related to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The minister said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during the NEC meeting advocated for devising a mechanism for providing funds to Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Gilgit-Baltistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to help their development at par with other areas of the country.

Ahsan Iqbal said that the funding for AJK block in the upcoming PSDP has been enhanced from Rs 12 billion to Rs 22 billion, for Gilgit-Baltistan from Rs 9 billion to Rs 12 billion while an additional package of Rs 3 would also be provided for Gilgit-Baltistan, hence taking the total funding to Rs 15 for this region. He said that the development funding for FATA has also been increased from Rs 21 billon to Rs 24.5 billion.

The minister said that the social sector was given importance in the development budget, financing for which has been increased from Rs 90 billion to Rs 153 billion.

The planning and development minister said that in order to promote higher education and lead the country towards development, the budget for Higher Education Commission (HEC) has been increased from Rs 21 billion in 2016-17 to Rs 35.5 billion in 2017-18. He said that the government also envisaged establishing of university campuses at district levels across the Country within 3 years.

Ahsan said that the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was also being provided additional funds to upgrade its cancer facilitation centers.

The minister said that Rs 17 billion has been specifically approved for Balochistan to improve communication system and for different water related projects.

For upcoming year, the minister said that the NEC approved 6 percent GDP growth target, with agriculture developing by more than 3.5 percent, manufacturing by 6.4 percent, services sector by 6.4 percent, while inflation would be curtailed at 6 percent.

The minister said that the investments would go up from current 15.8 to 17.2 percent, exports were projected to reach $23.1 billion, adding that with the performance based incentives for export sector, the target could be revised upwards.

During the current fiscal year (2016-17), he said, the GDP was recorded at 5.3 percent which is the highest in last decade and a good news for Pakistan that its economy was put on recovery path.

The minister said that agriculture sector posted growth of 3.5 percent which is again a positive sign, and attributed this positive development to Prime Minister’s Agriculture Package announced in the budget of current year. He said that the manufacturing sector grew by 5.3 percent from 3.7 percent as compared to last year, showing revival of economy.

Addressing the participants of the meeting, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said development of the country should not be politicised as it aimed at the prosperity of every citizen.

He said that the federal and provincial governments are working in harmony for the country’s development and should continue on this path. He said during the recent Belt and Road Forum in China, all the chief ministers accompanied him which showed the world that Pakistan unanimously stands for development.

Talking about power issues, he said government was focusing on a balanced mix of sources for energy including LNG, coal, hydel, solar and wind.