ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: 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 highest-ever increase in the overall national outlay.
While addressing a press conference after the meeting of NEC, the Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal said that this included Rs 1,001 billion Federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), Rs 1,112 billion provincial PSDP while Rs 400 would be spent by various corporations to carry out their development projects.
“Enhancement of development budget clearly shows the government’s priorities,” he said adding 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 it has been increased 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 Rs24.5 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.
For promotion of literature and culture, he said the government would be expanding the outreach of Academy of Letters across the Country by establishing its centers.
The minister said that Rs 17 billion has been specifically approved for Balochistan to improve communication system and for different water related projects.
In addition, he said that laptop scheme initiated by the government helped tens of thousands of youth to enter into digital age, adding that the government intends to initiate project to provide training to one hundred thousand youth training on EPR.
The minister said that state media would also be strengthen and various centers of it would be upgraded to facilitate people.
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 federal 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.
Ahsan Iqbal said that the industrial sector would grow further when 8,000-10,000 megawatt electricity would add to the system. He said that the services sector also grew by 6 percent from 5.6 percent last year, expressing the hope that the service would perform better due to the CPEC projects.
The minister said that the revenue collection during July-March was recorded at Rs 3.146 trillion and by the end of the current fiscal year, it would definitely grow further.
The planning and development minister said that the overall GDP has crossed Rs 300 billion threshold and expressed the hope that it would go up to Rs 350 billion next year. He said that the investment in economy has also increased from 15.6 percent to 15.8 percent.
The minister said that export was a challenge which is estimated to reach to $21.17 billion during the current year compared to $22 billion last year, attributing low growth to suppressed demand in the international market.
However, he said that the exports are expected to grow due to the performance based incentives announced by the Prime Minister for those exports enhancing their exports by 10 percent.
The minister said that the imports for this period were recorded at $45.7 billion compared to imports of $40.5 billion last year, however clarified that the increase was not recorded in consumer items rather it was due to import of machinery and industrial plants.