LAHORE Punjab Chief Minister Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif in a Press briefing on Monday has stated that as per initial assessment of the damages caused by the raging floods, Punjab had suffered a loss of Rs 80 billion, while 15 million people had been affected directly by these devastating floods across Pakistan. He was giving a briefing to the media about flood devastation in Punjab, relief activities and the efforts for the rehabilitation of the affectees after a 4-hour long meeting of the Punjab Cabinet at Chief Ministers Secretariat. In an unusual way, the Chief Minister deemed it better to brief the media himself about the decisions taken by the Cabinet regarding rehabilitation of the affectees. In ordinary circumstances, such briefings are usually given by the Law Minister or by one of Chief Ministers advisers. He said that additional funds would be generated through adopting austerity measures, reducing non-developmental expenditure and curtailing annual development programme for the relief and assistance to the calamity-stricken people. He said that no reception or Iftar party would be arranged at the official level in the province. He said that foreign visitors would be served only one dish and the funds thus saved will be utilised for relief and rehabilitation of the flood victims. The Chief Minister welcomed the setting up of National Flood Commission for the rehabilitation of flood affectees on the proposal of Pakistan Muslim League (N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif and described it as a step towards promotion of national solidarity. He said that Punjab government will extend all out cooperation to the National Flood Commission. He said that the Commission will comprise those honest individuals who enjoy deep respect in the society. He said that Flood Commission will assess losses in the provinces due to the floods. He hoped that commission would make a rational assessment of the requirements of the four provinces and ensure fair allocation of funds as per needs of the each province. He disagreed with a questioner that establishment of commission was an expression of no-confidence over the political leadership. He also rejected reports that PPP Ministers in the provincial Cabinet expressed their reservations in the meeting for not being taken into confidence over the relief activities. 'I was the first one who called Senior Minister Raja Riaz to join him at the Jinnah Barrage when it was facing threat from flood water, he clarified. Shahbaz said that survey had been started for the assessment of losses and forms have been distributed for this purpose. He said that Flood cess will also be imposed in the province and recommendations are being given a final shape in this regard. He said that this tax will be levied only on such persons as have the capacity to pay. He said committees had been formed at the local level to make assessment of the losses, and school headmasters would also been included in these bodies. Replying to a question, Shahbaz Sharif said that funds meant for sasti roati scheme would also be shifted towards the affected areas. 'The flood-hit people deserve this money more than any body else, he observed. He said farmers in the affected areas would be provided free seeds and fertilisers to cultivate crops after the water recedes. Regarding the share of Punjab from foreign assistance for the flood affectees, the Chief Minister said that he was thankful to Prime Minister for contacting him two days ago and assuring full cooperation for the relief and rehabilitation of the flood victims. He also expressed gratitude to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Iran, China and US for helping in these difficult times. He said that austerity has been promoted and non-developmental expenditure has been curtailed in the province. He said that no new vehicle had been purchased while during his visit to foreign countries, all expenses are paid by him and the members of his delegation from their own pockets. The Chief Minister also thanked the media for highlighting the problems of the calamity-stricken people. He stressed upon the people to promote unity, harmony and brotherhood for steering the country out of the present crisis. He said that there is a need for serving the distressed people by rising above political and personal differences. Shahbaz said that the worst-ever flood in the history of the country has put a heavy responsibility on the government and there is a need for collective efforts for the relief and rehabilitation of the distressed people instead of indulging in point-scoring at this critical stage. He said that national unity and solidarity is essential at these testing times. He said: 'We are in a state of war and a spirit of Jehad is required to tackle this challenge. The Chief Minister said that the country was facing the heaviest flood in its history and nobody could imagine that it could cause devastation at such a large scale. As such, he said, there was need for sincere and consolidated efforts for coping with this challenge. He said that Punjab government is utilising all available resources for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of the floods and no effort is being spared in this regard. He said that 400 trucks of ration have so far been sent to the flood-hit areas whereas 40,000 mineral water bottles on daily basis and medicines as well as treatment facilities are being offered to the affectees. He said that Pak Army, Air Force Rescue-1122, Police, elected representatives and civil society are rendering commendable services for the relief and rehabilitation of the calamity-stricken people. He said that ration is being provided through C-130 planes in the areas of Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur, the land routes of which have been cut off from other areas. He said that supply of dry ration is also being started from August 17. He said that National Disaster Management Authority has so far given tents and 25,000 packets of food while Punjab government is using its own resources for the other relief work. He said that in the Cabinet meeting, Secretary Irrigation gave details of damages to irrigation network. Senior Member Board of Revenue informed about relief activities while Chairman Planning & Development gave a detailed briefing about survey regarding rehabilitation of the affectees and other measures. He said that according to an estimate 15 million people have been affected by the floodS in the country, out of which 85 lakh persons belong to Punjab province. He said that orders have been issued for immediate rehabilitation of the irrigation system. Later, replying to different questions, the Chief Minister said that disconnection of the road links with Dera Ghazi Khan and Muzaffargarh is one of the causes of price-hike as it has suspended the supply of fruits and vegetables. He said that Punjab government has reduced the price of 20 kg atta bag by Rs.100 in the open market and Rs.125 in Ramzan Bazaars while sugar is being sold at the rate of Rs.61 per kg in Ramzan bazaars. He said that 400 Sasti Roti Dasterkhawn were operating in the province and a number of deserving persons are being given free food. He said that due to floods, the target of setting up 1000 Sasti Roti Dasterkhawns had not been achieved ,however, efforts are being made in this regard. Monitoring Desk adds: Regarding the funds,he said he had advised Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani that provinces should be provided aid in proportion to the magnitude of damage occurred there.