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Govt to hold audit of three metro bus projects

14 September, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet Thursday decided to hold audit of three metro bus projects executed during the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.

“Lahore Metro Bus project was completed at a cost of Rs 30 billion. However, the cost of additional bridges was not included in the stated amount,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters at a briefing after the cabinet meeting. “As per calculations, Lahore metro bus earns Rs 917 million annually and the Punjab government has to pay Rs 4.2 billion subsidy every year to run the project,” he added.

Similarly, the minister said that Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro bus was completed at a cost of Rs 45 billion. This service earns just Rs 660 million and the Punjab government pays Rs 2 billion subsidy annually to run the project, he said.

In case of Multan metro, he said, the construction cost was Rs 29 billion while the project earned just Rs 54 million while Punjab government had to pay Rs 2.1 billion subsidy annually to run the project. “In a country where people are crying for clean drinking water and health and education facilities, we are paying Rs 8 billion subsidy just to run three metro bus projects. Therefore, the cabinet has decided to hold audit of these projects,” he stated.

About Peshawar metro bus, the minister said the project’s estimated cost was Rs 67 billion out of which Rs 41 billion have been spent so far. However, he said that there was no plan to pay subsidy to run the project as its buses have been purchased at a cost of Rs 2 billion, whereas in Punjab buses have been taken on rent.

Fawad said that Orange Line Metro Train project would cost about Rs 250 billion to make the trains run, while about 3.5 billion estimated subsidy will have to be given annually. He pointed out that the entire rail track from Peshawar to Karachi could have been doubled if Rs 250 billion were spent on it.

When asked about operation of the metro buses, the minister said it had to be decided by the Punjab government. “If the provincial government can spare that much money for subsidy, it could continue with the operation,” he added.

Informing media about the decisions taken by the cabinet, the minister rejected the reports about increase in gas and power tariffs as well as any increase in income tax on the salaried class. “We see headlines in newspapers about these issues but I would suggest that media should report facts and correct information,” he said.

“T he cabinet has decided to import 100,000 tonnes urea and provide ample quantity of gas to local manufacturing plants to meet requirements of the farmers. The government would import urea at Rs 2550 per bag and provide to farmers at Rs 1650 per bag giving them a subsidy of three to four billion rupees,” he added.

He said international forensic audit experts would be engaged to detect Pakistanis illegal money deposited abroad and bring it back. “We have to pay Rs 500 billion daily for repayment of debts and everybody should keep in mind the prevailing economic situation of the country. Even though, the government is committed to provide relief to the deserving segments in the country,” he said. The minister said instead of issuing income tax ordinance, the matter of taxation is being sent to parliament.

He said that the decision had been taken to utilize the dead capital of 34,459 kanal state land under the guest houses for commercial purpose, out of which 17035 kanal are situated in the urban areas.

He said that operation against encroachments would continue as it was a major initiative of the present government. “We have got vacated land worth billions of rupees and shall also be moving against officials involved in these scams.”

He said the cabinet has given approval to the decision of abolishing the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) and its attached department Capital Development Authority (CDA) would be transferred to the Interior Ministry.

The minister said the cabinet has given approval to constitute a new board of governors of the Pakistan Television Corporation with information minister its chairman. It would have eight members, he said. The members of the PTV board of governors are volunteers and no position is paid, while Ahmed Malik and Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar had been included in the editorial board of the PTV, he said, adding that Arshad Khan would be PTV’s new chairman.

He said the expenditure of Prime Minister’s Secretariat during the past five years was Rs 2.3 billion while the spending of Punjab Chief Minister’s Secretariat stood at Rs 2.9 billion. The expenditures of Punjab and Sindh governors during the past five years stood at Rs 1.29 billion and Rs 1.4 billion respectively. The huge amounts spent by prime minister, chief minister and governors would have been sufficient to provide clean water and health facilities to a large population of the country, he said.

The cabinet appreciated the chief justice of Pakistan’s initiative for construction of dams and decided to exempt the amount donated for the fund from taxes.

The cabinet also gave approval to appointment of Haroon Sharif as chairman of the Board of Investment.

The minister said he had written a letter to the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) and the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) to ensure payment of salaries to employees, also asking them to suggest as to how the government could help them. “It is our duty to stand by the weak and deserving communities.”

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