Punjab’s budget – Expectations and reality

The federal government had passed the annual budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 however, debating and criticizing will keep continuing on the budget that was passed under traumatic circumstances amid the COVID-19 epidemic.
In fact, no new taxation means a big relief to the business community and the common man. It is a difficult time and the economy is under pressure due to COVID-19 and the federal government budget should be considered balance. However, terming the annual budget 2020-21 below the expectations is illogical.
Attentions shifted to provincial budgets
Meanwhile, the attention has shifted to the provincial budgets. The largest province Punjab will present Rs 2.4 trillion budget today with an annual development budget of Rs437 billion.
Prime Minister Imran Khan dashed to Lahore just a day after the federal budget was presented to make approvals for the provincial budget. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar held a special session of the provincial cabinet earlier today and approved the budgetary proposals.
Health and education top priority sectors
Health and education have been treated as priority sectors in budget preparation. The provincial budget proposes allocating Rs. 125 billion for primary health and Rs.130 billion for the specialised health sector.
Moreover, Rs323 billion has been allocated for school education, Rs132 billion rupees for the Police Department along with a 17 percent raise in salaries.
Budget disappoints govt employees
The federal budget for the fiscal year 2020-21, disappoints government employees as their salaries have not been increased.
Similarly in Punjab, the budget documents have not recommended a raise in salaries and pensions for government employees. It is a difficult time and the economy is under pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the decision not a raise in salaries appreciate able.
Reduction in sales tax
Economic activities are unlikely to reach its normal situation anytime soon and, hence the Punjab government is considering reducing the sales tax on services and providing tax exemption to many sectors. Revenue has fallen and healthcare costs have escalated amid the pandemic while ad hoc relief of increase in salaries is being considered.
Recruitment on 8519 health vacancies
The budget proposes recruitment on 8519 health vacancies in the province. It has also included Rs 10 billion rupees allowance for health professionals fighting with the coronavirus pandemic.
Allocation of Rs 30 billion for SMEs
The budget also suggested allocating Rs 30 billion rupees for Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) along with a 15 billion rupees tax relief package. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be seen in the forthcoming fiscal year and the government has downward revised revenue targets for the fiscal year 2020-21.
Tax-free budget is a big achievement
Many government officials and general public termed the federal budget the best one under the prevailing circumstances. According to them, the federal government has presented an outstanding budget under the current economic pressures. Economic experts said that giving tax-free budget was a big achievement of the present government.
Key sectors
The coronavirus outbreak has impacted the entire world. Even the most developed countries and Pakistan could certainly not escape the economic consequences.
The provincial authorities should allocate an adequate budget for every sector of life, especially, health, agriculture trade industry education so that the problems faced by the people can be addressed. Promises not to impose new taxes are in place, but relief is also needed in taxes that are already in place.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every section especially the daily wage laborers so concrete steps should be taken in the budget to protect them especially. Overcoming the economic woes of the common man should the first priority of the government, therefore, a comprehensive plan should be adopted to provide relief to the poor. 
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