The National Economic Council (NEC) on Friday approved country’s consolidated development budget of Rs2.5 trillion for the upcoming financial year (2017-18), showing highest-ever increase in the overall national outlay.
The NEC meeting was chaired by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who approved the highest ever public sector development projects of Rs 1001 billion under Federal spending for 2017-18.
This included Rs 1001 billion Federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), Rs1112 billion provincial PSDP while Rs400 billion would be spent by various corporations to carry out their development projects, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Professor Ahsan Iqbal said while addressing a press conference after the meeting of NEC, the highest economic decision-making forum of the country.
‘”Enhancement of development budget clearly shows the government’s priorities,” he said adding that Rs411 billion would be spent on infrastructure development, Rs43 billion for different projects of Railways, Rs404 billion for energy while Rs180 billion would be spent on projects related to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The minister said that the Prime Minister advocated for devising a mechanism for providing funds to Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas to help their development be at par with other areas of the country.
He said that the funding for AJK block in the upcoming PSDP has been enhanced from Rs12 billion to Rs22 billion, for Gilgit Baltistan it has been increased from Rs9 billion to Rs12 billion, while an additional package of Rs3 billion would also be provided for GB.
He said the development funding for FATA has also been increased from Rs21 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 Rs90 billion to Rs153 billion.
He 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 Rs21 billion in 2016-17 to Rs35.5 billion in 2017-18.
He said that the government also envisaged establishment of university campuses at district levels across the country within 3 years.
Ahsan said that Atomic Energy Commission 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.
He said that Rs17 billion has been specifically approved for Balochistan to improve its communication system and for different water related projects.
He said that laptop scheme initiated by the government helped tens of thousands of youth to enter the digital age, adding that the government intends to initiate project to provide training to one hundred thousand youths on EPR.
The minister said that state media would also be strengthened and various centers of it would be upgraded to facilitate people.
For the upcoming year, the minister said that the NEC approved 6% GDP growth target, with agriculture developing by more than 3.5 per cent, manufacturing by 6.4 per cent, services sector by 6.4 per cent, while inflation would be curtailed at 6% per cent.
He said that the investments would go up from current 15.8 to 17.2 per cent, exports were projected to reach US $ 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), the GDP was recorded at 5.3 per cent, which is the highest in last decade and a good news for Pakistan that its economy was put on the path of recovery.
He said that agriculture sector posted growth of 3.5 per cent, which is again a positive sign, and attributed this positive development to Prime Minister’s Agriculture Package announced in the budget of current year.
The Manufacturing sector grew by 5.3 per cent from 3.7 per cent as compared to last year, showing revival of economy.
He said that the industrial sector would grow further when 8,000-10,000 megawatts of electricity would be added to the system.
The services sector also grew by 6 per cent from 5.6 per cent 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 Rs3.146 trillion and by the end of the current fiscal year, it would definitely grow further.
He said that the overall GDP has crossed Rs300 billion threshold and expressed the hope that it would go up to Rs350 billion next year.
He said that the investment in economy has also increased from 15.6 per cent to 15.8 per cent.
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.