Pak defence spending exceeds budgetary limits by Rs 60 bln

Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Feb 21 (PTI) Pakistan''s defence spendinghas exceeded budgetary limits for the first six months ofcurrent fiscal by about Rs 60 billion due to the enhancedexpenditure on the war on terror and the military''s prolongedengagements in the tribal belt, a media report said today.

Under a federal spending plan put in place by thefinance ministry, defence expenditure in the first six monthsof the financial year should have been around Rs 175 billionbut actual spending had exceeded Rs 235 billion, a seniorunnamed official was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper.

The government had envisaged Rs 442 billion as defencespending for the current fiscal year.

Higher than expected expenditure on defence and lowerthan anticipated revenue collection in the first half of theyear were offset by a tight squeeze on the developmentprogramme that has been restricted to Rs 88 billion in almostseven-and-a-half months of the year, the official said.

As a result, fiscal deficit has been contained below2.9 per cent of the GDP.

A portion of security spending is treated separatelyas grants because of "unusual one-time" fiscal requirements torestore peace in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan, theofficial said.

With this pace of spending, the country''s annualdefence expenditure could cross Rs 580 billion, against Rs 552billion estimated by the International Monetary Fund and thebudgeted allocation of Rs 442 billion.

The ministry of finance had put a restriction onministries, divisions and other arms of the federal governmentin August last year to limit their expenditures to 40 per centof the approved annual budget during first half of the year.

Under that condition, the government should havereleased about Rs 115 billion for development schemes in thefirst six months but total releases under this head amountedto about Rs 88 billion in over seven months.

The finance ministry''s guidelines for currentexpenditure require all government agencies and ministries,including the President and Prime Minister, to keepexpenditure at 20 per cent each for the first and secondquarter of the fiscal year and 30 per cent each in the thirdand fourth quarter, the official said.

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