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Major chunk of budget `lost` to debt servicing

By Kalbe Ali & Hassan Belal Zaidi 2016-06-19
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly approved on Saturday the budgets of several sectors as well as charged expenditures that include Rs10.33 trillion for debt servicing, which is the country`s main annual expenditure.

The assembly gave its assent to Rs3.13trn in the form of 75 demands for grants, out of a total of147.

The remaining grants will ostensibly include those on which cut motions will be moved by the opposition from Monday.

The largest allocation, as always, is for defence services, which has been earmarked a grant of Rs 860 billion. The lion`s share of this Rs409bn goes to the army, Rs182.79bn to the air force and Rs93bn to the navy. The budget of different defence-related services, including the accounts departments, amounts toRs9.97bn.

Besides, an unspecified head titled `Others` has been allocated Rs174.84bn.

In addition to the main allocation, the defence ministry has been allocated Rs1.5bn and Rs5.09bn has been earmarked for the federal government-run educational institutions in cantonments and garrisons. In terms of development expenditure, the defence ministry has been allocated a grant of Rs2.52bn.

Charged expenditure The total charged expenditure of the country during the coming financial year 201617 amounts to Rs10.44trn, which includes the budget for institutions such as the Supreme Court (SC), the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Charged expenditure refers to budgetary heads that are finalised by the relevant departments/institutions themselves, and their details are presented in the National Assembly as a mere formality.

The legislature cannot alter the budgetary allocations for these departments/ institutions.

The main head among charged expenditures is foreign and local debtservicing.

For the year 2016-17, the government has earmarked Rs8.38trn for repayment of domestic debt, Rs1.24trn for servicing of domestic debt which mostly includes interest payments Rs443.80bn for repayment of foreign loans, Rs113bn for servicing of foreign debt and Rs141.37bn for repayment of short-term foreign credits.

The other key charged expenditures include Rs3.97bn for the auditor general of Pakistan, followed by Rs2.25bn for the ECP.

The budget for the president`s staff, household and allowances amounts to Rs863.48 million. The SC has earmarked Rs1.74bn for itself for the upcoming fiscal year.

The IHC has decided that its budget for the coming year will be Rs469.63m.

The charged budgets of the federal ombudsman and the federal tax ombudsman amount to Rs586m and Rs117.72m, respectively.

Grants After defence services, the largest approved amount is for the Pakistan Railways, which has received Rs113bn, of which Rs41bn has been allocated to help maintain its capital outlay.

The Ministry of Planning,Development and Reforms has been allocated over Rs41bn, including development expenditure, while the Ministry of National Health Services will receive Rs32bn.

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas will receive over Rs20bn whereas development expenditure for Fata has been separately allocated Rs22.3bn.

The National Accountability Bureau, which has been the butt of the opposition`s criticism for the past several months, has been earmarked Rs2.33bn.

The Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training has been allocated Rs3.43bn,includingdevelopment expenditure.

However, there are a few interesting comparisons. For instance, the government`s public relations wing, the Press Information Department, has been earmarked Rs594m, which is more than the allocation for climate change (Rs545m), Afghan refugees (Rs488m) and Gilgit-Baltistan (Rs227m).

The smallest grant in the budget, worth just over Rs2.65m, has been allocated for `maintenance allowances to ex-rulers`, which, according to the finance minister, is paid to the rulers of former princely states such as Bahawalpur.