Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) tax free budget for the fiscal year 2017-18 amounting to over Rs 94 billion and 41 crores was presented in the AJK legislative Assembly in Muzaffarabad on Thursday. For the first time in the history of AJK, the development budget is being enhanced hundred percent and provides total outlay to the tune of over 23 billion rupees. Presenting the first budget of the present Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Government in the House, AJK Finance and Planning Minister Dr. Najeeb Naqi said, “Total expenditure for next financial year has been estimated over 71 billion rupees.”
Finance Minister said, “The government is giving top priority to spread network of roads in the state to promote tourism. The government of Pakistan has already included the mega development projects for Azad Jammu and Kashmir in Federal budget.” The Finance Minister said, “Out of the total development estimates 39 percent has been allocated for communication, 15 percent for power generation projects, 9 percent for local government and rural development, 8 percent for foreign funded projects, 7 percent for physical planning and housing while 22 percent for other sectors. 86 percent funds have been allocated for the ongoing 154 schemes while 32 percent for new development schemes.”
He said, “Requisite funds have also been allocated for education, health, tourism, local government and rural development and other sectors. The government allocated Rs 22551 million for education and Rs 6626 million set aside for the health sectors.” The Minister said, “Rs 30 billion has been reflected as part of federal development program. Medical Colleges Muzaffarabad and Mirpur and Kairan-Lesswa By Pass road are part of Federal Development Program.” He elaborated that, “Tao Butt- Muzaffarabad road, Poonch University, Women University Bagh, Complex for Legislative Assembly and Neelum Jehlum Hydro Power Projects will be implemented under this budget.”
Dr. Najeeb Naqi said, “AJK has been made a major beneficiary of CPEC. Under the first Phase of CPEC, Mansehra Muzaffarabad Mirpur Mangla Express Way would be constructed within estimated cost of Rs 142 billion. This project is also part of federal development program.” He said, “Lower Toppa Kohalla Express Way under NHA is part of Federal Development Program costing over Rs 20 billion. Special Economic Zone status is being given to Mirpur under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). 1124 megawatt Kohalla Hydropower Project and 720 megawatt Karrot Hydropower Project is also part of CPEC.” The Minister informed the House that, “Present government has chalked a new mega project with the name of Tourism Corridor.” He said, “Budget provides the solid foundation for the socio economic uplift of the people of the area, provision of basic amenities of life and to accelerate the pace of developmental activities in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.”
He announced increase in the salaries of government employees and pensioners as per announced by the federal government. The Finance Minister also released before the house the revised budget estimates for the current fiscal year 2016-17 amounting to 76 billion rupees. Earlier, the AJK cabinet approved the budget proposal for the next fiscal year. AJK Prime Minster Raja Farooq Haider Khan presided over the meeting.