LAHORE: Finance Minister Ayesha Ghaus Pasha said on Saturday the Punjab Growth Strategy was dependent on electricity to achieve the target of 8 per cent growth rate by 2018.
The government hopes that the gross provincial product (GSDP) will increase to up to 2 per cent once the energy crisis is over, Pasha told a post-budget press conference.
She said the Punjab and federal governments were making efforts to end the energy crisis. She said investments under the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor would create great employment opportunities and boost the economic activity. “Investments in the Punjab’s energy sector will reach $9 billion once these projects are completed,” she said.
Rs31 billion has been allocated for energy projects in the 2015-16 budget. The government is working on various projects to generate more than 6,000 megawatts, Pasha said. “Some projects have started generating electricity, some will be operational next year and the remaining will be completed by the end of 2017,” she said.
To meet the expenses, the provincial government is relying on funds allocated from the divisible pool. The Punjab is scheduled to get Rs 880 billion which covers 78 per cent of its expenditures. However, Pasha said, the government planned to generate revenues from local resources to become self dependant.
“We are clear about broadening the tax net. We are also working to remove loopholes in the tax network,” she said. The minister said the idea was to introduce reforms without affecting the poor.
The minister said revenue commissioners and other staff would be appointed to improve the Punjab Revenue Authority’s (PRA) structure. The tax collection target for the PRA has been revised down to Rs72 billion for 2015-16. The target was Rs95 billion for the outgoing year but the PRA could collect only Rs45.6 billion.
Pasha said 10 new taxes had been introduced. She said of the Rs345 billion allocated in the 2014-15 budget for Annual Development Programme, Rs290 billion had been spent by May 2015. “It is expected that by the end of this year, total spending will be around 90 per cent of the ADP allocation,” she said.
The minister said the government would do its best to double investment in the private sector by 2018. “This is not possible unless steps are taken to improve the law and order situation.” She said Rs5 billion would be generated through the infrastructure development cess this year. She said the tax, already being collected in Sindh and Khyber Paktunkhwa, would be levied on importers and exporters and collected at dry ports. Pasha said general sales tax had been abolished on internet services to promote information technology and e-governance. About the tax on luxurious houses, she said the matter was sub judice. But, she said, the tax would be collected from those who had already been issued notices.
Planning and Development Board Chairman Irfan Elahi, Information Secretary Momin Ali Agha, Finance Secretary Yousuf Khan and Punjab Revenue Authority Chairman Raheel Siddiqui attended the press conference.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2015.