LAHORE - The Punjab cabinet yesterday took many major decisions, including construction of a 1,200MW power plant and interest-free loans to the tune of billions of rupees to small farmers.

The Punjab cabinet which met with Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif in the chair accorded approval to the construction of a new 1,200MW gas-based power plant in the province and establishment of safe city projects in six major cities, Multan, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Sargodha. These projects would be implemented in phases. Later, safe city project would also be initiated in Sahiwal.

The provincial cabinet approved the agreement between the Punjab government, agriculture department and Akhuwat for providing interest-free loans to small and landless farmers. The government would set up a fund with an amount of Rs 2 billion for the purpose. The meeting also approved amendments in different laws, including Punjab E-Stamp Rules 2016, Punjab Sales Tax on Services Ordinance, 2016, Fort Munro Development Act, 2016, and PEEDA Act, 2016. The meeting approved the establishment of Punjab Mental Health Authority under the Punjab Mental Health Ordinance, 2001. The meeting also approved minutes of proceedings of 22 to 27 meetings of Standing Committee for Finance and Development of the cabinet. The provincial cabinet commended the efforts of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif for receiving arrears of net hydel profit from the Centre. After the approval of amendments in PEEDA Act, 2006, inquiries would have to be finalised in 60 days, instead of 90 days.

In addition, retired employees have been granted right to appeal. In his address, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif said a suitable piece of land would be identified near southern Punjab district of Rahim Yar Khan or Muzaffargarh for the establishment of electricity project to be produced from gas. Like all other development projects, this energy project will also be completed speedily by working day and night on it. This project would become a source of development of Pakistan, especially the Punjab, as well as prosperity of the people. The electricity produced by the gas power project would be environment-friendly and inexpensive. He said the energy projects are harbinger of speedy development of the country and prosperity; so the PML-N government has been striving hard for the fast completion of energy projects and quite a number of projects are in the final phase of their completion.

He said 717 megawatts electricity is being added to the national grid through Bhikhi Power Plant. Meanwhile, additional 400 megawatts would be produced in November and December this year from the power plant. Similarly, the 1,320 megawatts Sahiwal Coal Power Project would start producing electricity from May 20 in the first phase; and this project would add 660 megawatts to the national grid in the first phase. The second phase of this project would be completed at the end of June.

He pointed out that Sahiwal Coal Power Project would break record of speedy completion in the whole world. Meanwhile, the first turbine of Haveli Bahadur Shah Gas Power Plant will also start producing electricity from this month. On the other side, work on Balloki Gas Power Project is also in progress. He said additional 5,500 megawatts electricity would be added to the system at the end of 2017. Similarly, 9,000 megawatts electricity will be added to the national grid by March 2018. He said the credit of fast-track completion of energy projects goes to strenuous efforts of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The chief minister said that after its launch from Lahore, the safe city project is being started in six big cities of the Punjab, adding work on the projects would be started within next few months. These projects would be completed in 2018, he added. He affirmed the cities would become secure and peaceful through the Punjab Safe City Projects. The completion of safe city projects would help eradicate terrorism and street crimes. He said no society can move forward without ensuring protection of life and property of the people. Safe city projects are an important step towards achieving that goal.

The chief minister averred launch of e-stamp papers is yet another historic step of the Punjab government which has facilitated the people. This step has also eradicated fraud, forgery and issuance of stamp papers in back dates. It has also saved the people from standing in queues for getting stamp papers.

He said agriculture has vital importance for strengthening national economy. That’s why the Punjab government has taken solid steps for the development of agriculture sector and prosperity of small farmers. It’s for the first time in the history of the country that small farmers are being provided with interest-free loans. This would be done through a transparent and latest system.

While giving approval to the establishment of Punjab Mental Health Authority under the Punjab Mental Health Ordinance, 2001, the chief minister said different steps taken by the Punjab government for providing better healthcare facilities have started yielding fruits. He vowed no stone will be left unturned to provide qualitative and latest healthcare facilities to the people.

The chief minister constituted a cabinet committee for the selection of authority members and said this committee will finalise the members of Punjab Mental Health Authority. The experts from the private sector will also be included in this authority. The chief minister congratulated the cabinet members upon getting arrears of net hydel profit from the Centre, and said the Punjab government would get arrears worth Rs 80 billion in this regard, adding this amount would be utilised for the development and prosperity of the people. In addition to it, the Punjab will also regularly get its share of Rs 9 billion, every year, under this head.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Presiding over a meeting to review progress on clean drinking water project, has asked the department not to waste time anymore and move forward for the development of the country.

The chief minister directed the authorities concerned to speed up completion of the project as water is the basic need of the people. He said the Punjab government has envisaged a mega project of providing clean drinking water to the people, starting with the water supply to the people in 37 tehsils of South Punjab.

The chief minister said the time wasted earlier in completion of the project should be compensated through hard work and professional approach.

The Punjab cabinet paid tribute to the hard work of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif for early completion of energy projects. The participants of the meeting appreciated the personal efforts and hard work of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif for fast track completion of energy projects under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.