Punjab Govt Slashes Overall Budget for Public Order and Safety Affairs

The government of Punjab has reduced the overall budget under the “public order and safety affairs” head that includes high courts, lower judiciary, fire protection (civil defense), Punjab prisons, and administration of public order (rescue and emergency services).

According to the official document, the total allocation under the public order and safety affairs stands at Rs. 171.043 billion as compared with the last year’s allocation of Rs. 176.703 billion.

The provincial government has merely increased the budget of Punjab police by 2.8% to Rs. 119.122 billion as compared with Rs. 115.633 billion in its Annual Development Program (ADP) for 2020-21.

As per the budget document, the government has allocated Rs. 27.738 billion for high courts and lower judiciary against the previous allocation of Rs. 28.570 billion. It has also cut down the budget for the civil defense to Rs. 0.710.

For the rescue and emergency services, the government significantly reduced its budget and proposed a sum of Rs 13.623 billion as compared to the last year’s allocation of Rs 21.034 billion.

“While security remains highly-priced, it is expected that the rising costs of policing shall address the overt or covert reasons for increasing crime rates, forestall possible security disasters and sustain a reduction in the crime rate in general,” read the official document.

In addition to the social costs of crimes, poor security directly translates into stalled economic growth. The general, accepted notion is that a hike in crime rate post-COVID socio-economic downturn cannot be ruled out. However, it may be hard to determine the economic impact of an improved security system through higher expenditure on law enforcement services, but the Punjab government has consistently provided unflinching financial support to the public order and safety affairs.

In the financial year 2019-20, the total outlay for corrective and judicial functions, policing, fire protection, prison administration, and emergency services was a record high at 5% total increase, and policing received the largest share of allocations with an increase of 3.5%.

It further stated that, despite the financial stress, the Punjab government has yet again expressed its resolve and commitment towards “greater public sense of security” for citizens and businesses through “increased” spending on law and order.

As expenditure on law enforcement increases, the Punjab government aims to develop indicators that can assess the value of policing – a legitimate demand generated by the current financial crisis. Spending on judicial and policing services is expected to safeguard economic affairs and social sector public investments and hence the expectation for a sizable return on security investment grows.

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