LAHORE - The Punjab budget 2011-12, expected to be presented on June 9, will be more important than the three previous budgets given by the PML-N government after the 2008 elections as it will be harbinger of the political weather ahead. Whether the PML-N leadership wants to mount pressure on the federal government to hold fresh elections before March next year when elections on 50 per cent Senate seats are due to be held and the PPP stands a better chance of winning seats in the presence of the existing assemblies - or it likes to allow the present setup to complete its mandated five-year constitutional term, will become clearer from the kind of relief steps and development projects that will be included in the budget. Political circles think that Mian Nawaz Sharifs mood has changed during the past few months and his recent bellicose statements against the rulers show that political windstorms will start blowing after the budget session and the PML-N will try to unite all major parties to give the government a decisive push. The new Punjab budget will be the first after the removal of the PPP ministers from the provincial cabinet, a step that increased tensions between the two erstwhile allies. Another important party PML-Q is divided, with most of the legislators supporting the government, and others sharing opposition benches with the PPP. It will also be the first budget after the chief ministers categorical decision to break the 'begging bowl and not to rely on foreign aid. The budgetary measures to be taken by Punjab will enable the governments at the centre and other three provinces to learn to live without foreign assistance. The preparation for the new budget is a challenging task for the Punjab government as a number of departments, devolved under the 18th constitutional amendment, will become part of the provincial setup. Whatever the future political agenda of the PML-N, there are some areas which need more attention than others. For example, at a time when terrorists are out to hit important symbols of state authority to avenge the killing of Osama Bin Laden, law and order must be given top priority. The manpower of the law enforcement and security agencies should be increased and they should be given better arms to deal with terrorists. Education sector also deserves special attention. At present, the private sector institutions are fleecing the people. They are charging high fees, without any government agency checking them. If the standard of government-run institutions is improved, which will be a gigantic task, people might opt to withdraw their children from private institutions and send them to the ones working under governments control. But regrettably, if the government-run educational institutions charge less, they dont have necessary facilities nor do they impart quality education. The architect of the Daanish Schools idea should own other educational institutions as well. Health sector also deserves urgent attention. True that situation at government-run hospitals is rather good, it needs improvement. Facilities available at local hospitals should be properly utilized and nobody should be allowed to go abroad for treatment of a disease which is possible at home. When high-ups go abroad even for routine medical check-ups, they undermine the local facilities. Since Punjab feeds other deficit provinces, it has to develop agriculture sector. Establishment of housing schemes on fertile lands should be discouraged. Also, it should be carefully assessed as to how much land Punjab must spare for agriculture to be able to meet its present and future food requirements, which are growing by the day. To have more lands available for agriculture, the government should give a serious thought to vertical expansion of housing colonies. Energy is yet another sector which must be taken care of. Now that provinces are allowed to have their power generation projects, the Punjab government should immediately come up with some plans to overcome energy shortages. Unless this was done, industrialization in Punjab would not be possible. Its an open secret that many industrial units have gone out of production because of power shortages, and nobody is interested in setting up new units because of the same problem. Himself an industrialist, the head of the Punjab government should think of urgent steps to motivate investors to set up projects in the countrys biggest province. The existing industrial estates are not performing for various reasons. And new industrial estates planned along the motorway are nowhere to be seen. Steps should immediately be taken to send a message to all and sundry that the government will welcome investment in industrial sector. To be able to 'cut the coat according to cloth, the chief minister will have to, or should, slash the expenditures on his offices at various places. Likewise, he should announce a substantial cut in the budgetary allocation for the Governors House. If possible, salaries and perks of ministers, speaker, deputy speaker and all members of the Punjab Assembly should also be reduced to send a message to the common man that leaders will also live within means. The bureaucrats should also be made to realize the ground realities. If their benefits are monetized, withdrawing various facilities from them, they will learn living within means. Such people are expected to formulate better and people-friendly policies than those enjoying luxurious lives, no matter what the countrys economic situation.