‘Punjab debt reached Rs693b during PML-N tenure’

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SOURCEThe Express Tribune
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LAHORE:  Punjab Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht has said that the provincial debt during previous government’s tenure reached the alarming level of Rs693 billion, 24% of which was added in the last fiscal year.

The Punjab government was facing a burden of Rs100 billion when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) took reins of power and the government had already exhausted the borrowing limit of Rs37 billion while payment of Rs57 billion was outstanding against contractors, which was carried forward to the next financial year, Bakht told the Lahore Economic Journalists Association on Thursday.

Briefing about mismanagement by the previous provincial government, Bakht said financial management of pensions and salaries was ignored as the provincial pension bill rose to Rs228 billion in the last fiscal year while the salary bill increased to Rs314 billion after pay raise by the PML-N-led Punjab government to gain political mileage. The minister revealed that out of the Rs635-billion Annual Development Plan (ADP), only Rs411 billion was utilised, adding “this exposed the under-capacity of institutions in spending the development budget”.

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Additionally, it also indicated the wrong ADP size which, while knowing the capacity of institutions, was fixed at a higher level in the budget solely for political gains.

Bakht claimed that expenditures of the Chief Minister House and camp offices were massive which would be cut down under the austerity drive undertaken by the present government.

Furthermore, the provincial austerity measures committee will meet twice a month to discuss the measures adopted and their outcome, besides what other austerity steps they planned to take.

The minister said in addition to unveiling this year’s budget in October, the Punjab government had decided to begin work on resource mobilisation along with the ADP for the next fiscal year.

The PTI’s ADP for next five years would be an outcome-oriented model, instead of the previous input-oriented contractors’ model. Similarly, spending and utilisation of all allocated budgets would be ensured in addition to monitoring the spending, he added.

On revenue measures, Bakht said the Punjab Revenue Authority, by registering over 50,000 taxpayers and collecting over Rs110 billion in revenue, was performing quite well as compared to the Board of Revenue and Excise and Taxation Department.

However, still a huge potential existed to further improve revenue collection by broadening the tax net.

(This news/article originally appeared in The Express Tribune on September 28th, 2018)

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