Environment, Energy sectors ignored in Punjab Budget: CPDI

Lahore: Punjab government has not given due share to environment and energy sectors in its development budget for the year 2017-18; Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) expresses its concerns while reacting to the budget. Climate change and energy crisis are the two major issues challenging country’s economic growth. Punjab government has allocated 1.3% of the development budget for both of these sectors collectively. This gives a serious blow to the peoples’ expectations attached to the budget that marks start of the election year.

After passing of Pakistan Climate Change Act 2017 it was considered that the provincial governments would respond to the issues related to the climate change and environment in forthcoming budget. Executive Director CPDI, Amer Ejaz while sharing the details explained that the share of environmental planning in Punjab’s total development budget has remained below 1% since 2013-14 and has been on decline ever since. Ironically the highest allocation stood at 0.057 % in 2013-14 that was further revised and squeezes to 0.023% towards the end of same fiscal year. The revised budget estimates for 2016-17 remained 0.03% showing environment is not on priority list in Punjab. The budget allocation for the year 2017-18 is Rs.540 Million standing at 0.08% of the total development budget of the Punjab that certainly needs to be improved many folds.

Despite energy crises and government’s repeated promises to increase power production the budget 2017-18 tells a different story. A total of Rs.7750 Million has been allocated for development of energy sector that equals to 1.22% of the total development budget. The percentage share of energy sector in development budget of Punjab dropped from 7.05% in 2013-14 to 1.64% in 2016-17. Ironically the revised budget that reflects the actual spending pattern only touched 3.82% in 2014-15. This was the highest percentage in the last four years of the sitting government. According to the supplementary budget presented before the provincial assembly yesterday the revised estimates of energy sector for the closing year I.e 2016-17 stand at Rs.3366.976 Million equaling 0.63% of the total revised development budget. Mr. Ejaz stressed upon the need to increase the allocations in energy sector.

Discussing further, the budget allocations in health and education sector he revealed that both the sectors had seen reasonable percentages of budget allocations in the early years of the current government but have been on decline in recent years. The highest of allocations for health sector was 9.43% of the total revised development budget in year 2014-15 which dropping abruptly to 7.78% the next year. In 2016-17 the budget allocation  dropped further to 6.42% of the total development budget, surprisingly the revised estimate against this allocation issued yesterday has risen to highest of these years i.e. 11.01% of the total revised budget for year 2016-17. Rs. 35,093.7 Million has been allocated for health sector for the year 2017-18 that stands at 5.53% of the total development budget of Punjab announced yesterday.

During the last four years the budget allocations for education at the start of the financial years have been steady between 11.81% and 12.22% of total development budget but the revised estimates issued at the end of these years dropped from 14.07% of total revised development budget of Punjab in year 2013-14 to 5.35% in 2015-16 and then rose a bit to 8.47% in 2016-17. Punjab governments has shown commitment to invest Rs. 71394 Million in development of education sector for the next year which is 11.24% of the total development budget.

Mr. Amer Ejaz reminded the government its election promises about investing at least 4% of the GDP in education sector, providing better health facilities at the door step and eliminating energy crises during the current tenure and demanded to improve the budget allocations according to actual need. He emphasised upon the government to show seriousness in fulfilling its commitments to its people as well as international community regarding climate change. Further, the statement stressed upon the need of better management of resources and minimise the difference between budget estimates at the start and revised estimates at end of the year.