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Rs278 bn agri plan okayed

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March 20, 2019


  • "Entertainment and gift budget" of the prime minister, ministers and senior officers to be slashed
  • Cabinet approved the formation of a taskforce on the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB)
  • The government has decided to spend Rs290 billion on agriculture

ISLAMABAD: The Prime Minister, Imran Khan, chaired a five-hour long meeting of the federal cabinet here on Tuesday which took several key decisions including the approval of the Rs278 billion National Agriculture Emergency Programme.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had promised to declare an agriculture emergency under its first 35 initiatives after coming into power to boost the profitability of farmers. Approving the Rs278 billion programme, the cabinet recommended that steps be taken across Pakistan for the improvement of agricultural sector. Among other decisions, the cabinet approved a bill to slash the "entertainment and gift budget" of the prime minister, ministers and senior officers, calling for further recommendations on the matter in the next meeting.

Briefing the media on cabinet decisions, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the cabinet approved the formation of a taskforce on the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), a government department that administers evacuee properties, including educational, charitable or religious trusts left behind by Hindus and Sikhs who migrated to India after Independence. The cabinet sought recommendations from all the relevant departments on the subject and called for including members of minority groups in the task force. Fawad said the decision about appointing its chairman was deferred for a week. The meeting was also briefed on the reforms in the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR).

The cabinet also condemned the heinous terror attack in Christchurch and saluted the bravery of the Pakistani national Naeem Rasheed who gave his life while saving the fellow worshipers. Prime Minister Imran Khan said Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and it’s an eternal truth that terrorists have no religion. The cabinet highlighted the need of dialogue among civilisations to counter the prevailing hatred in the West against Islam and Muslims since the survival of human beings is only possible if they live in peaceful co-existence.

The cabinet accorded approval to reimburse Rs2.5 billion to gas consumers who had received inflated bills last month. Fawad Chaudhry said the cabinet took into view the issue of inflated gas bills and discussed measures to rectify the situation. He said 3.2 million gas consumers were affected by inflated bills. It was decided that those responsible for sending inflated bills will face action. The members of the federal cabinet also took stock of the political situation prevailing in the country while the law and order situation also came under discussion.

Fawad said the government has decided to spend Rs290 billion on agriculture, with 18 big schemes to be launched in the next five years. He said during the last eight years, agricultural spending was reduced by 60 percent which negatively impacted this crucial sector of economy. He said our agricultural imports have reached four billion dollar mark, which includes two billion dollar bill for importing edible oil. He said in the new agricultural schemes, focus will be on increasing per capita production, judicious use of water and increased access to farming credits. The minister said livestock and fisheries sector will be given special attention as they have a huge export potential.

The cabinet reviewed progress on the development work at Kartarpur Corridor. He said the government decided not to construct any building on the 30-acre land used by Baba Guru Nanak for agricultural purposes in Kartarpur in reverence to the demands of the Sikh community. The request for keeping this area preserved was made by Novjot Singh Sidhu in a letter to the government of Pakistan. He said the Kartarpur Corridor is spread over 1,500 acres inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan in January this year. He said a 6.8 km-road will be constructed in the corridor to facilitate the Sikh pilgrims visiting the shrine.

In another meeting the prime minister was given a detailed briefing by Frontier Works Organisation on the work undertaken so far. The meeting decided that heads of regulatory bodies, corporations and attached departments of the ministries will be selected on merit and a preliminary committee headed by the respective minister will oversee the process. The cabinet also reviewed arrangements for the upcoming visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad on the occasion of March 23, Pakistan Day. Fawad said it is a continuation of visits of the important world leaders to Pakistan after the PTI came to power. He said Mahathir's visit to Pakistan is a great honour for Pakistan.

The cabinet gave approval to grant National Information Technology Board an independent status, separating it from the Ministry of Information Technology to improve its functioning. It was also decided to shift the Accountability Court No. 2 Rawalpindi to Islamabad and it will be now called Accountability Court No. 3.

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