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Thursday Sep 13 2018

Punjab govt paying Rs8 billion in subsidies for metro bus projects


ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led federal government has decided to conduct an audit of metro bus projects in Punjab which were initiated by the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government.

During a news briefing following the federal cabinet meeting on Thursday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry outlined the costs associated with metro bus projects in Islamabad, Lahore and Multan. “The government of Punjab is giving a subsidy of approximately Rs8 billion on these projects, If this subsidy is not given, all of these projects would close,” Chaudhry said.

The federal minister informed reporters that yearly the Punjab government gives a subsidy of Rs4.2 billion on the Lahore metro bus. He added that the Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro bus was built at a cost of approximately Rs39 billion and the government was paying a subsidy of Rs2 billion on this project. The cost of the metro bus in Multan was Rs29 billion while the subsidy being given on it was Rs2.1 billion.

Chaudhry further said that the cost of constructing the metro project in Peshawar would be Rs67 billion, however, unlike the projects in Punjab there would be no requirement for a subsidy and the buses were owned not rented.

Commenting on the Orange Line project, the minister said the cost of this had reached Rs250 billion. “In this cost or a little more we could have doubled the track going from Khyber to Karachi. We do not know about the subsidy on this project. It seems when it is completed we will need to pay a subsidy of over Rs3.5 billion to run the train.” 

The expenditure of the Prime Minister House in the last five years was Rs2.30 billion, meanwhile, CM Punjab house spent Rs2.90 in the same time, said the information minister.

'No increase of income tax on salaried class'

Responding to a question regarding reports of a planned increase of the income tax rates for salaried individuals, federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that no such plan was under consideration as yet.

"Often times, newspapers print headlines about things that never happen. They said the price of gas and electricity is being increased, but it wasn't true. There were newspaper reports today of the government increasing income tax rates for the salaried class. Nothing like this has happened either," he said.

Fawad Chaudhry said that the finance bill would be sent to parliament for approval.

CADD abolished

Chaudhry said Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) had been abolished and its departments would be given to other ministries.

“An example would be that CDA would work under the interior ministry. The reason for this is that CDA is reclaiming government land,” the information minister said.   

Dam fund to be tax exempted 

The information minister said efforts of the chief justice for the dam fund were commended during the cabinet meeting. 

Chaudhry added that the dam fund would be exempted from income and withholding tax. 

Formation of a recovery unit

Fawad Chaudhry further said that for bringing back money stashed illegally abroad, it has been decided to form a recovery unit. The incharge of the unit will be prime minister’s special assistant Shahzad Akbar.  

100,000 tonnes of Urea to be imported

The federal information minister said that the former government did not provide gas to the fertiliser plants, which led to a halt in Urea production.

“Now the government will have to import 100,000 tonnes of Urea,” he said.

PTV Board of Governors 

The cabinet also approved the formation of a Board of Governors (BoGs) for Pakistan Television (PTV), the chairman of which will be a minister and for the first time eight independent people will be included.

According to Chaudhry, the board would comprise a minister who would be the chairman, secretary information broadcasting division would be the vice chairman, chairman Higher Education Commission, additional secretary finance, DG ISPR, MD PTV.

The minister informed the press of some members which included Barrister Ali Zafar, Arshad Khan who was being considered for PTV MD, Zohair Khaliq, Shela Roth, Professor Ijaz ul Ehsan, Dr Humayun Ehsan and Savail Hussain. 

The information minister further said Mustafa Nawaz Khokar and Qamar Zaman Kaira will be included in PTV’s editorial board. 

According to Chaudhry, the government will stand beside media workers and journalists, defending their rights.

The federal information minister also said that in the cabinet session today, prayers were offered upon the tragic demise of former first lady Begum Kulsoom Nawaz.