Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

16 June 2020, Tuesday, Vol 1, No.49

Punjab Budget 2020-21: Development allocation up by 9.42 per cent

Punjab budget and COVID related to developments

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
Punjab Budget 2020-21: Development allocation up by 9.42 per cent

On 15 June, the Punjab provincial government’s Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht presented the Rs2.24 trillion relief-laden tax-free budget for FY2020-21. Punjab’s budget is being hailed as a pro-business budget. The key investments areas are socio-economic revival, livelihood security, health infrastructure, human capital development, food security, and education. (“Budget 2020-21: Rs56 billion tax relief for corona-hit businesses,” Dawn, 16 June 2020)

As per the provincial budget data, social sector receives 29 per cent; infrastructure development 23 per cent; special initiatives 14 per cent; services sector 13 per cent; production sector 5 per cent and others 15 per cent. (“BUDGET 2020-21: Punjab increases development budget by 9.42pc,” Dawn, 16 June 2020)
Bakht also revealed the Rs337 billion worth Annual Development Programme (ADP); an initiative to counter economic, health and education crises faced by the province. The 9.42 per cent hike (from FY2019-20’s Rs308 billion) comes with an emphasis on economic stimulus (Punjab Economic Stimulus Programme – PSEP) during the pandemic related lull. A total of Rs47bn is allocated for the PSEP – Rs30bn to ensure sustainable livelihood opportunities; Rs8bn for skill training and Micro Small Medium Enterprise sector; and Rs9bn for Communicable Disease Programme. 35 per cent of the ADP is reserved for uplifting living standards of 11 south Punjab districts.

Owing the pandemic related irregularities in the education sector, Taleem Ghar Initiative was allocated Rs80 million for generating content for distant learning, enhancing digital infrastructure and identification of missed School Learning Outcomes. For the agriculture sector, the Punjab government commenced the Locust Control Operation and Allied Matters in Cholistan Initiative to combat the food security threat; announced the new Rural Enterprises in Agriculture Development initiative to generate rural employment, income and private investment; but, reduced allocations from last year’s Rs15.5bn to Rs8.065bn. Additionally, the Health Insurance Programme has been allocated Rs12bn to increase medical accessibility for the poor; 1,348 water supply and sanitation schemes received a total of Rs11.86bn; and the Punjab Abe-Pak Authority (in charge of clean drinking water) received Rs2.5bn. (“Rs2bn for south Punjab poverty fighting plan,” Dawn, 16 June 2020) (“Punjab to facilitate small businesses despite uncertainty,” Dawn, 15 June 2020)

FM Bhakt also introduced the 2020 Finance Bill and presented the Supplementary Budget statement (2019-20). Punjab’s CM, who was in attendance, congratulated the FM; said the budget set realistic goals and priorities keeping public needs in mind; lamented over the Opposition’s lack of cooperation; and called for liaison amid assembly members. (“Punjab presents pro-business budget,” The Nation, 16 June 2020)

Meanwhile, the PML-N legislators led by Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz staged protests, created a ruckus and walked out during the budget speech.

The Opposition was triggered when PML-N’s Rana Mashood Ahmed Khan was not allowed to speak on a point of order. (“Opp protests during budget speech,” The News International, 16 June 2020) Later, the PMLN’s spokesperson said that, the Opposition rejected the “unrealistic and anti-people” Punjab budget 2020-21. Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) called it the capitalists’ budget. CM Usman Buzdar expensive computerisation of the land records in DG Khan, the minister’s hometown, was also questioned. (“Opp calls budget anti-people, unrealistic,” Dawn, 16 June 2020)

Image Source: Dawn


In Brief

Virus hotspots identified in 20 cities
As the COVID-19 cases in the country are on the rise, the government has announced that 20 cities have been identified as potential Covid-19 hotspots where restrictive measures will be implemented to contain the virus as per PM Imran Khan’s smart lockdown policy. Of the 20 cities, six are in Sindh, eight in Punjab, four in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Quetta and Islamabad respectively. Further, Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health stated that the idea behind closing the areas was to prevent the chances of transmission of the virus from one area to another. (Ikram Junaidi, “Govt identifies virus hotspots in 20 cities,” Dawn, 16 June 2020)

Satisfied with virus testing kits and PEE: PM
While presiding over a meeting to review the COVID situation, PM Imran Khan expressed his satisfaction over the availability of coronavirus testing kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). However, he took notice of the non-availability of some medicines and injections being used for the treatment of Covid-19 patients and instructed the NDMA to look into the matter. Further, he directed all provinces to impose the smart lockdown in areas that are reporting a high number of cases and he urged the people to adopt the preventive measures that have been put in place to curb the pandemic. (Syed Irfan Raza, “PM satisfied with virus testing kits, PPE availability” Dawn, 16 June 2020)

The Covid-19 projections for Pakistan
The coronavirus cases at present have reached 150,000 and the government has estimated twice the number to be affected by the end of July month. Whereas the Imperial College London simulation has predicted 2.2 million deaths in Pakistan by June 2021. They also suggest that with interventions and mitigation, the loss can be reduced to 40 per cent. While the government has aimed to increase its testing capacity by 100,000 tests per day, the editorial questions if these steps would suffice in handling the Covis-19 rather than ensuring the following of SOPs. It demands the government to work-out the relations with the opposition party and maintain unity with provinces to produce a strategy for the situation. (“Troubling projections,” Dawn, 16 June 2020

Prime Minister announces smart lockdown strategy
The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) has decided to implement a smart lockdown plan to counter Covid-19. As the Coronavirus cases hike in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, and other 20 cities have been identified and will be imposed under smart lockdown. In the recent meeting, the Prime Minister has directed to re-look into COVID-19 facilities, to force ensure the following of SOP’s and to make sure the availability of medicines and injections in those cities. (“Smarter lockdown returns to 20 cities,” The News International, 16 June 2020)

Govt ready to face consequence in Justice Isa case
On 15 June, the federal government’s counsel informed the Supreme Court regarding presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, the government was ready to face the consequences of failure to prove misconduct but emphasized that the failure would be across the board. Further, the counsel stated that “It seems as if the president, the prime minister, and the former law minister are on trial when the judge should have been on trial.” This statement was made after an observation was made by one of the Justice during the hearing stating that there was no denying that judges were accountable but so was the federal government and if the latter could not qualify the reference then the accountability would extend even further. (Nasir Iqbal, “Govt ready to face consequences in Isa case, counsel tells SC,” Dawn, 16 June 2020)

The need for a talk with Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM)
The Pakistan government has called for cooperative talks with Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, it is an organisation that works for the rights of Pakhtuns. The Leader of the group has said that there has been negligence in the past to their grievances and they will see this is as a way to redress the issues. The editorial states that it was the country’s responsibility to bring cooperative relationships across the province to address the complaints of the people and this is a good initiative to bring the discussion to the table. (“Talking to the PTM,” Dawn, 16 June 2020)

Restrictions on imports have caused massive losses for Afghan traders
Afghan traded have stated that the restrictions imposed on the import of fresh fruits and vegetables by Pakistan have caused huge losses for them. The Afghan Traders’ Union stated that most of the exports from Afghanistan are perishable goods that have been prohibited from entering the country due to the coronavirus. However, good from Pakistan continue to be exported to Afghanistan amidst hundreds of trucks loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables destined for Pakistan and India which lie stranded at the main Chaman and Torkham crossing points. Trade body Chairman told Anadolu Agency that the restrictions have cost Afghan traders losses worth more than 100 million dollars. (Anadolu Agency, “Afghan traders decry curbs on imports by Pakistan,” The Express Tribune, 16 June 2020)

The bilateral mechanism between China and Pakistan builds
The Minister of Planning and Development has announced that China has decided to be part of the Independent power producers (ISSP) under the Bilateral mechanism. The government has allocated Rs77 billion for various projects such as roads, railways, and construction as a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He stated that “China had offered about 85 per cent financing for the project while we wanted its share increased to 90 per cent” (Khaleeq Kiani, “Provinces asked to chip in Rs110bn for uplift of tribal regions, DHQ hospitals,” Dawn, 16 June 2020)

Intra-Afghan dialogue: The decider
A dialogue has been agreed between the Afghan government and the Taliban group which will be convened in Qatar. There have been regressive tensions in terms of release of the prisoners and it is expected from the Taliban to release prisoners before this meeting. In the case of Kabul government, it has released 600 Taliban prisoners so far but the result has only been killing 400 government employees in Kabul. The editorial states that this dialogue must turn into peace talks as the possibility to hold the ceasefire is very low until a political settlement is achieved to end the conflict. (“Intra-Afghan talks,” The News International, 16 June 2020)

India’s entry to the UNSC ‘, not a moment of rejoice, but concern’: FM Qureshi
On 15 June, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stated that India becoming the non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was ‘not a moment of rejoice, but concern.’ While talking to the media he brought out that India has for long been ignoring the resolutions of UNSC on Kashmir leading to the oppression of many Kashmiris. Further, he said “Heavens will not fall if India becomes a UNSC member,” adding that Pakistan had also served at the same position previously seven times. (“FM Qureshi concerned over India’s entry to UNSC,” The Express Tribune, 16 June 2020)

India’s Non-Alignment 2.0 seeks to provide a “third option”
The geopolitical tensions between China and India strike again in May in the Ladakh region. As the relations between the US and India build along with the pressure to maintain its diplomacy with the US, India cannot depend on its self-reliance strategy for the long term. It might get pushed to fall with the US or support China, hence the NAM 2.0 means a challenge to India to keep up with both powers and also develop its economy. The editorial ends by stating that the strategy of self-reliance and non-alignment can be a disaster with unilateral action. (Haider Zafar, “The instability of India’s non-alignment agenda,” The Nation, 16 June 2020)

Detention of two Indian High Commission triggers India-Pakistan spat
The Detention of two Indian High Commission employees after a road accident in Islamabad has sparked diplomatic tension between the two neighbours. The two officials were booked by the police for reckless driving, causing injury due to negligent driving, and possessing fake currency. Given the recent development between the two countries, the situation was made to look like a tit-for-tat response by Pakistani authorities for the detention and expulsion of two Pakistan High Commission staffers by India on 31 May. (Baqir Sajjad Syed and Munawer Azeem, “Road accident in Islamabad triggers India-Pakistan spat,” Dawn, 16 June 2020)

"Which of the Indian neighbour is happy with the actions of the Modi government"

- Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister of Foreign Affairs


In Focus and In Brief sections are prepared by Lakshmi V Menon, Abigail Miriam Fernandez, A Padmashree and P Harini Sha.

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