LAHORE - Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has said that promotion of agriculture and agriculture-based products could help overcome economic crisis faced by the country. He said that agriculture had a key importance in the country's economy and a bumper crop this year could change the destiny of the nation. He said that there is need for adopting austerity and living within our means as the foreign assistance or loans on stiff terms cannot put the country on the road to prosperity. He was speaking at a dinner hosted by him in the honour of columnists at the Chief Minister's Secretariat here the other day. He said though China achieved independence two years after Pakistan but due to the hard work and dedication of its leadership it had become a developed country. He said that he signed 19 agreements during his recent visit to China. "Though a number of agreements were signed with China in the past but we had been inclined towards the West and only a few agreements materialised." He said China was true and sincere friend of Pakistan and had stood by Pakistan in every moment of crisis. Shahbaz informed that China was ready to help Pakistan without any condition. "The time has come to benefit from Chinese technology." He said that China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and gulf countries were some of the trusted friends of Pakistan. "The people of China and Pakistan are very close to each other and Pakistan's economic future is also linked with China," he maintained. The CM said the Punjab government would extend complete security cover to Chinese as well as other foreign investors. He said that had Bhasha Dam been built Pakistan would not have faced energy crisis. He said the people had given us mandate and all efforts at its violation will fail. In response to a question, Shahbaz said that terrorism and extremism were the biggest challenges being faced by the country and there was a need to evolve a national policy to overcome this problem. He said whole nation had realised that General (r) Musharraf had been pursuing foreign agenda and if he had not bowed down before his foreign master, the situation would not have been so serious. He said the Chinese government bore the expenditure of eight members of the delegation that visited China while the remaining paid their own expenses, which is a great national service. In response to another question he said that the audit of TMAs was conducted by local audit fund which is a subsidiary of the Finance Department and bungling of Rs 54 billion was detected. Similarly, he said, the 5-billion rupees project of Lahore-Kasur Road was not completed timely despite provision of resources and he himself inspected this project three times. He said that on the first inspection the company, which was blacklisted, improved its performance and completed the work within stipulated period. In reply to a question, the Chief Minister said the promotion of education was top priority of the government, therefore, essay writing and speech contests had been arranged at school level for promoting self-confidence in students. The winners of these contests would be given a total prize of Rs. 140 million," he added.