G-B govt unveils over Rs140 billion budget

G-B budget

GILGIT: Gilgit-Baltistan Finance Minister Muhammad Ismael on Monday presented a budget of over Rs140 billion for the fiscal year 2024-25. The budget session was chaired by G-B Assembly Speaker Nazir Ahmed.

In his budget speech, Ismael said that Rs86.6 billion had been proposed for non-development expenditures, of which Rs68 billion have been estimated as receipts in grants from the federal government.

The G-B government has also set a tax and local revenue collection target of over Rs6 billion. The budget deficit is estimated at Rs10.6 billion, compared to last year’s deficit of Rs17.3 billion.

Rs34.5 billion had been allocated for development schemes, while Rs20 billion will be spent on ongoing projects under the Annual Development Plan. The federal government has allocated Rs9.5 billion in PSDP for the region, while the PSDP under the prime minister’s initiatives is Rs4 billion, and Rs1 billion is the FEC component.

The government will spend an estimated Rs19.72 billion on wheat procurement, and Rs15.82 billion will be received from the centre for providing a subsidy on wheat. Additionally, Rs252.7 million will be spent on hiring new teachers.

The minister said that to strengthen the treatment of deserving indigent patients through the health endowment fund, it has been proposed to increase the fund’s volume from Rs500 million to Rs1 billion in the upcoming fiscal year.

He said an allocation of Rs400 million is recommended for the provision of free medicines in hospitals, while Rs100 million had been suggested for diet charges.

The minister announced that Rs350 million would be allocated for providing free books to students in government schools, and Rs15 million for modern books in colleges.

Substantial increases have been proposed for the grant-in-aid allocated to public schools and cadet colleges to improve educational standards.

Additionally, he said, Rs100 million will be allocated for promoting modern education in the IT sector and establishing an IT Board.

Ismael said the Benevolent and Group Insurance Fund would be increased from Rs300 million to Rs700 million. For electricity supply, production, and distribution, Rs750 million will be allocated, while Rs771 million will be allocated for roads, bridges, and water supply under the Communication and Public Works Department. Rs423 million will be allocated to settle verified liabilities of the water and power department from fiscal years 2013 to 2017. To deal with natural disasters and mitigate their damages, Rs1 billion will be allocated.

Necessary reforms and new initiatives in the agriculture, livestock, and fisheries department will receive Rs300 million. For annual calendar events under the tourism and culture department, Rs90 million will be allocated.

The minister hinted at raising power tariffs, saying, “Due to the increased production costs of electricity, a gradual revision of electricity rates is deemed inevitable.” To increase revenue from stamp papers and ensure transparency, it is proposed to introduce e-stamps and digital stamps.

The minister said that a 25 per cent ad-hoc relief allowance had been proposed for government employees in scales 1-16, and a 20 per cent increase for employees in scales 17 and above. The minimum wage for contingent-paid staff will be set at Rs37,000 per month.

The travelling allowance/daily allowance currently in effect in the federal government will be implemented in Gilgit-Baltistan.

However, due to financial constraints, the G-B “weather charges” for employees in scales 1-15, including contingent paid staff, frozen since June 30, 2020, with no arrears to be paid.

The minister further announced that a complete ban would be imposed on officials’ foreign trips, except in unavoidable circumstances or in the state’s or public interest.

There will be a continued ban on bringing employees from other departments to the Gilgit-Baltistan Secretariat on attachment without prior approval from the Finance Department.

Additionally, a complete ban will be imposed on hiring contingent staff in development and non-development budgets, except in unavoidable circumstances where government approval is obtained.

Holding events and seminars at expensive hotels and venues will be strictly prohibited, except by the Henzel power plant administration, cabinet department, and tourism department. However, all departments can arrange light refreshments within their allocated budgets for official meetings and oath-taking ceremonies. No new allowances will be introduced.

To curb the misuse of government vehicles in Gilgit-Baltistan, the Motor Vehicles Registration and Taxation Management System approved by the assembly last year will be enforced by the General Administration Department this year.

Unauthorised officers and employees will be prohibited from being allocated government vehicles in accordance with the Gilgit-Baltistan Staff Car Rules.

He said for the timely completion of ongoing projects in the education department, Rs475.2 million had been allocated in the current fiscal year, which will complete five ongoing projects. However, he said, approximately Rs776.3 million have been allocated for the education sector in the fiscal year 2024-25.

The minister also emphasized the importance of the information technology (IT) sector, noting that the Gilgit-Baltistan government established the IT department last year to meet modern demands.

He said the IT department was focused on promoting IT education among students and has developed special projects to achieve these goals. For the fiscal year 2024-25, approximately Rs131.6 million had been allocated to the IT department to support these initiatives.

Additionally, the minister mentioned that for the timely completion of ongoing school education projects, Rs2.1725 billion was allocated in the current fiscal year, which will complete 85 projects.

For the fiscal year 2024-25, approximately Rs1.37 billion had been allocated for the school education sector. For rural development, approximately Rs1.19 billion had been allocated for the fiscal year 2024-25.

Under the prime minister of Pakistan’s “Billion Tree Tsunami Programme,” the government has proposed planting millions of trees on barren and private lands, increasing slope plantation along roads, and designating more areas as community-controlled areas, which will protect nearly 100 per cent of Gilgit-Baltistan from illegal wildlife hunting. For these initiatives, approximately Rs152.4 million have been allocated for the fiscal year 2024-25.

He said that Rs192.6 million have been proposed for the law department. In the outgoing fiscal year, the information department had three development projects with a total cost of Rs151.3 million, with Rs9.6 million allocated for their completion. For the fiscal year 2024-25, approximately Rs41.4 million has been proposed for the information department.

Also read: Govt increases indicative budget ceiling for G-B to over Rs83b

The communication sector had been allocated Rs3.58957 billion in the outgoing fiscal year, with expenditures amounting to Rs4.285511 billion, resulting in the completion of 81 out of 484 projects. For the fiscal year 2024-25, approximately Rs5.63 billion had been allocated to this sector.

In the G-B ADP energy sector, 52 schemes out of 114 projects are ongoing, with 74 megawatts (MW) of projects under construction.

Of these, nine projects totaling 21MW, including transmission and distribution lines, will be completed by June 2024. Additionally, 11 projects totaling 17MW will be completed in the fiscal year 2024-25.

Furthermore, six energy schemes under the federal PSDP are under construction, including 16 MW Naltar, 20/40 MW Henzel, 4 MW Thak Chilas, 26 MW Shagarthang, 34 MW Ghowari, and Regional Grid Phase I.

The 16 MW Naltar project will be completed by October this year, while the remaining projects will be completed by December 2026.

Additionally, 54 MW Attabad and 34.5 MW Harpo are under construction.

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