ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Thursday said the federal cabinet had decided to continue with austerity drive, hold audit of three metro bus projects and provide subsidy to farmers in urea fertilizer.
Informing media about the decisions of the cabinet, the minister rejected the reports about increase in gas and power tariffs as well as any increase in income tax on the salaried class. “We see headlines in newspapers about these issues but I would suggest that media should report facts and correct information.”
“The cabinet has decided to import 100,000 tonnes urea and provide ample quantity of gas to local plants to meet farmers’ requirements. The government would import urea at Rs 2550 per bag and provide to farmers at Rs 1650 per bag giving them a subsidy of Rs three to four billion,” he added.
He said Lahore Metro Bus project was completed at a cost of Rs 30 billion. However, the cost of additional bridges was not included in the stated amount. “As per calculations Lahore metro bus earns Rs 917 million annually and the Punjab government has to pay Rs 4.2 billion subsidy every year to run this project.”
Similarly, the minister said that Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro bus was completed at a cost of Rs 45 billion. This service earns just Rs 660 million and the Punjab government pays Rs two billion subsidy annually to run that project.
In case of Multan metro, he said, its construction cost was Rs 29 billion while this project earned just Rs 54 million while Punjab government had to pay Rs 2.1 billion subsidy annually to run this project.
“In a country where people are crying for clean drinking water and health and education facilities, we are paying Rs 8 billion subsidy just to run three metro bus projects. Therefore, the cabinet has decided to hold audit of these projects,” the minister stated.
About Peshawar metro bus he said the project’s estimated cost was Rs 67 billion out of which Rs 41 billion have been spent so far. However, he said that there was no plan to pay subsidy to run this project as its buses have been purchased at a cost of Rs 2 billion, whereas in Punjab buses have been taken on rent.
Chaudhry Fawad said that Orange Line Metro Train project would cost about Rs 250 billion to make the trains run, while about 3.5 billion estimated subsidy will have to be given annually.
He pointed out that the entire rail track from Peshawar to Karachi could have been doubled, if Rs 250 billion were spent on it. He said that the cabinet also gave approval to new Board of Governors of Pakistan Television Corporation with the Information Minister its chairman. It would have eight members, he added.
The cabinet also gave approval to appointment of Haroon Sharif as Chairman Board of Investment.
Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that the Cabinet gave approval to the decision of abolishing Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) and its attached department Capital Development Authority would be transferred to Interior Ministry, which had retrieved illegally occupied public sector land worth 7.5 billion through the ongoing operation.
He said that the decision had been taken to utilize dead capital of 34,459 kanal state land under the guest houses for commercial purpose out of which 17035 kanal were located in urban areas.
He said that the expenditure of Prime Minister secretariat during the past five years was Rs 2.3 billion while the spending of chief minister Punjab Secretariat stood at Rs 2.9 billion. The expenditures of Punjab and Sindh governors during past five years stood at Rs 1.29 billion and Rs 1.4 billion respectively. The huge amounts spent by prime minister, chief minister and governors could be sufficient to provide clean water and health facilities to a large population of the country, he added.
The minister said that the cabinet appreciated the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s initiative for construction of dams and decided to exempt from taxes the amount donated for this fund. At the start of the meeting, the Ccabinet offered Fateha for the souls of former first lady Begum Kulsoom Nawaz and prayed for eternal peace of her soul.
Replying to questions, the minister said, subsidies were given in other countries too, but it was on the basis of revenue collected from respective areas, and it was not justified that revenue of the whole province was spent just in one city.
Moreover, subsidies were given proportionately to ensure that financial situation did not deteriorate. The minister said he had written a letter to Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) and All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) to ensure payment of salaries to employees asking them to suggest as to how the government could help them. “It is our duty to stand by the weak and deserving communities.”
He said the members of the PTV Board of Governors’ are volunteers and no position in BoG was paid while Ahmed Malik and Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar had been included in editorial board of Pakistan Television (PTV).
When asked about increase in power and gas tariffs, the minister said, neither prices of these commodities had been increased nor there was any proposal to enhance tax on salaried class. “We see some issues making the headlines, but these issues are misreported and I would suggest to investigate the information first and then report. Finance bill was also not part of the cabinet agenda today.”
He said that operation against encroachments would continue as he described it as a major initiative of the present government. “We have got vacated land worth billions of rupees and shall also be moving against officials involved in these scams.”
When asked about operation of metro buses, the minister said, it had to be decided by the Punjab Government. “If the provincial government would be able to spare that much subsidy money, it could continue with the operation.”
The minister said, instead of issuing Income Tax ordinance the matter of taxation was being sent to Parliament. He informed media that international forensic audit experts would be engaged to detect Pakistanis illegal money deposited abroad and bring back the same.
“We have to pay Rs 500 billion daily for repayment of debts and everybody should keep in mind the prevailing economic situation of the country. Even though, the government is committed to provide relief to deserving poor in the country.” When asked about future of the contract employees, the minister said the matter would be dealt with in accordance with the relevant laws.