LAHORE - Provincial finance minister Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha has said that no allocation has been made for Orange line Metro Train from the provincial budget 2016-17. Rather, she added, a soft foreign debt amounting to Rs115 billion, including a Chinese loan of Rs85 billion, will finance this project.

Addressing the post-budget press conference here at CM House on Tuesday, the minister said that the main focus of the provincial budget 2011-17 is to ensure maximum ease to the poor, youth employment, end of energy crisis, initiatives for agriculture sector, infrastructural development and a viable tax regime.

“Punjab’s Rs1.68 trillion budget is expected to generate 0.5 million jobs in the province through a massive development investment of Rs550 billion in large infrastructure, agriculture, water supply, transport, irrigation and energy projects.”

She appreciated the Punjab CM vision for economic growth to convert Punjab into a secure, economically vibrant and industrialized province under its growth strategy 2015-18. She said the government was creating an investment-friendly environment to attract private investment in the province for job creation.

Dr Pasha said that the salient features of the Punjab’s Economic Growth Strategy include raising provincial development growth to 7-8 per cent by 2018, creation of 1 million jobs annually, double the private investment in the province till 2018, taking all possible measures to eliminate terrorism, to ensure protection to the life and property of the masses and to raise export volume.

She said that more than half of the current budget has been set aside for general public services while current expenditure also includes allocations of Rs63b for providing subsidies to the poorer segments of population, including smallholders and landless growers in the province. The minister said that the major chunk of the subsidies is set aside for supplying cheap fertilisers to farmers under the federal Kisan Package and providing interest-free credit of Rs30b to the growers.

She said the leakages in the revenue collection machinery were being plugged through computerisation and adopting modern tax methodologies, adding that reforms were being introduced in all public sector departments.

“We are trying to make development approach more operational,” she said. “We were in formative phase and now we are formulating laws and taking mass/substantive measures to plug tax leakages.”

She said that now the taxpayers would be rewarded through various schemes while the tax evaders would be made to realise their responsibility. Dr Ayesha said that the education, health and agriculture sectors, and law and order were among top priorities of the Punjab government.

Dr Pasha said that the government was spending a hefty grant on ongoing energy projects in the province, asserting that the federal and Punjab governments were executing energy generation projects worth Rs 618 billion in the province, while China would invest Rs 360 billion in these projects.

“I have firm belief that these energy projects will prove to be helpful in overcoming energy crisis substantially and rid the people of load-shedding,” she said.

The minister said that under-completion energy projects in Punjab included 1320 MW coal-fired power station at Sahiwal worth Rs 180 billion, 1000 MW Quaid-e-Solar Park, which is currently generating 100 MW electricity at Bahawalpur at a cost of Rs 145 billion and 300 MW coal power project worth Rs 45 billion at Pind Dadan Khan. These three projects, she added, would be generating accumulative 2620MW electricity by 2017.

She said that the government is also initiating 1200 MW gas-fired power project at a cost of Rs 110 billion in Sheikhupura and it would be fully inducted into the power system by 2017.

The provincial government, she added, was also working on small power projects, as work had been started on coal-fired projects of 110 MW at Sundar Industrial Estate Lahore and Faisalabad Industrial Estate. Both the projects would cost Rs 33 billion, she added.

The minister said that the government had for the last few years been implementing Rs 21 billion mega project – Punjab Irrigated Agricultural Productivity Improvement project.

Under this project, drip and sprinkler irrigation system installed over an agricultural area of 120,000 acres and 9,000 water courses were streamlined.