The Punjab Agriculture Department has failed to utilise about two-thirds of development budget during 2016-17.
Against the budget estimates of Rs 20 billion for development outlay of 2016-17 for agriculture sector, the revised estimate has been reported at just Rs 7.399 billion, showing utilisation of only about 36 percent during the outgoing fiscal year.
Interestingly, Punjab has drastically reduced non-development budget for fiscal 2017-18 to just Rs 15.304 billion against budget estimate of Rs 28.094 billion of 2016-17. The revised estimates of non-development budget of 2016-17 have been Rs 26.965 billion.
Consequently, a steep reduction also reflects in the estimates of overall budget for year 2017-18. Against last year’s total allocation of Rs 48.094 billion for agriculture sector, Punjab earmarks only Rs 36.309 billion for upcoming financial year (2017-18), showing a reduction of approximately 25 percent.
The drastic cut in budget allocation is hard to comprehend especially if one goes through salient feature of ADP 2017-18, which states that there will be a much greater focus on agriculture sector to address the ailments faced by the sector.
As per details of the 2016-17 fiscal year’s estimates, Rs 20 billion were allocated for the development programme of agriculture sector, including an allocation of Rs 10 billion for schemes identified under Chief Minister’s Kissan Package. During 2016-17, 25 ongoing schemes with allocation of Rs 8 billion and 15 new schemes with allocation of Rs 12 billion had been included in the ADP 2016-17.
Under the Khadim-e-Punjab Kissan Package, Agriculture Department had identified 10 schemes, out of which, seven schemes were approved during the current fiscal year.
For annual development programme 2017-18, it has been planned to execute 34 ongoing and 25 new schemes for which provision of Rs 21 billion is being made for this sector. This also includes Rs 10 billion for the Khadim-e-Punjab Kissan Package and Rs 2 billion for Establishment of Punjab Agriculture, Food and Drug Agency (PAFDA) Science Enclave.
Meanwhile, sources said that low utilisation of development fund during 2016-17 was due to multiple factors. They claimed that delay in release of funds by the Finance Department was one of the major reasons. Moreover, litigation also contributed negatively to release of funds during 2016-17. Sources were of the view that handling of financial matter by top bosses also led to delays in implementation of the development projects.
Major initiatives of 2017-18 include Punjab Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Improvement Project, Optimising Watercourse Conveyance Efficiency through enhancing Lining Length, provision of laser land levelers to the farmers/service providers at subsidised cost, establishment of Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture Multan, establishment of model farms linked with improved supply chain and value addition, extension service 2.0, promotion of high-value agriculture through provision of climate smart technology package.