Despite the tall claims of austerity and self-reliance, the cash-strapped Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government have failed to achieve its revenue collection target.
During a high-level review meeting presided by AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider on Wednesday, secretaries of all government departments shared their respective progress reports.
The meeting was told that the government had collected a paltry Rs8.172 billion till January 2017. This was less than half the target of RsRs18.85 billion set for the ongoing fiscal year. That budget had been drafted and introduced by the outgoing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government in the valley.
After winning the AJK general elections in July 2016, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had claimed that they would meet all revenue collection targets in the region, making the government self-reliant.
Hearing about the gulf in collections and target, Haider directed heads of all government department heads to reduce non-development expenditures since AJK was spending over 85 per cent of its budget to pay for the salaries and other perks of government employees and top bureaucrats.
The government secretaries were told that to ensure 100 per cent collection of water and electricity dues from consumers in order to boost revenue figures in the region.
The officials were further told to maintain a balance between income and expenditures in their respective departments.
The review meeting further decided to bring residential and commercial buildings into tax net to boost the income of the state.
District Chitral is bigger than AJK and is administratively headed by a Deputy Commissioner while in AJK there are 10 Deputy Commissioners and over a dozen government secretaries, four of which are in basic pay scale grade-21.
Last June, the AJK government had set out a revenue-oriented, tax-free budget for the fiscal year 2016-17with a total outlay of Rs73.5 billion.
The government had earmarked Rs12 billion for development while Rs61.5 billion would cover non-development expenditure.
Moreover, the AJK government had hedged its revenue bets on Rs470 million in foreign aid for some specific departments such as education and health.
At the time, Haider had criticised the PPP for failing to give a good budget and had rejected it.