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September 11, 2018

PML-N govt’s uplift projects won’t be victimised: minister


September 11, 2018

LAHORE: Punjab Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht has said the government will not politically victimise any of the ongoing development projects which were started by the previous PML-N government and have entered the final stages of completion as the resources spent on these projects are owned by the people of the province.

Further, the government has started working on the first ever budget and waiting for the federal government finance bill which is likely to be announced within a week, besides the revenue targets it will achieve during fiscal year – viz a viz - the Punjab government will get share from federal divisible pool and allocate the resources accordingly to its priority areas mainly focusing on social sector uplift.

The previous government’s last budget was very much infrastructure centric and huge funds were allocated for it, while the PTI has focused on health, education, employment generation and housing for public. Thus budget will be made accordingly. ‘However, the projects near completion will be taken forward’, the finance minister said in an interview.

He said the first ever media interaction after assuming the office of one of the most important ministries of Punjab discussed the priorities of the PTI-led Punjab government which has given substantial representation to South Punjab in cabinet.

Talking about the deprivation of the South Punjab by the successive governments, the minister said that previous government claimed that it had allocated 2 percent higher than the population requirement is factually incorrect. The issue is not the allocation of resources, rather utilisation of allocated resources. During the last five years, the utilisation of development budget resources was not more than 25 percent which is below the actual number. The PTI-led Punjab government which has given substantial representation to South Punjab in the provincial cabinet will focus on capacity building of South Punjab. “This might not happen in the first year, that might be started evolving in the second year, but third year South Punjab will have capacity to utilise the allocated development resources”, he said. This is the difference that PTI wants to see, he added.

Hashim Jawan said that the mega projects would be moved forward as there is no victimisation concept in PTI. ‘We will ensure to complete the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project as the deadline of July 2019 is set by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The government has already taken a briefing on it, and now will study the project in detail’, he said. Furthermore, the previous government has done lot of entrenchment in power sector and we are assessing where the government stands now and what needs to be done. Punjab needs to evolve energy policy and strategy, he said. “We are evaluating the energy projects of the Punjab province.” The government has lot of ongoing commitments on energy project which it will honour.

About the PTI government’s 100 days plan, the finance minister said the committees and sub-committees were formed and started working properly. The prime minister reviews the committees’ performance. The basic objective is how the government will move forward with social sector uplift plan.

The minister believed that a lot of things need to be done in the provincial finance department for the transparency that how the government was budgeting, how much it was getting from public in form of taxes, how much is being paid in debt servicing, how much is being spent on different development projects. These are the issues which need to be addressed; the minister said ensuring the Right to Information in the Punjab finance department.

The minister believed that there are two major reasons of lower tax base, one is people did not know where their tax is being spent, and other is improvement required in the tax collections by the tax collecting agencies such as Punjab Revenue Authority and others.

About the Daanish School, the minister said that school education department presented that it was not a sustainable model while the government wanted to expand the reach and benefits of the quality education. The current model is not benefiting the large section of the targeted society while government wanted to make it economically viable. We want to introduce a model, in which more people benefit from quality education and improve the outcome from the spending, he added. He said that the government brainstorming for the better utilisation of existing infrastructure of Daanish Schools.

On a question about the faith of public sector companies in Punjab, the minister said that the issue would be discussed in the next cabinet meeting in which every company case would be discussed and the cabinet will make any decision accordingly.

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