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LAHORE: Punjab Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht has said that the year 2020 has been painful due to the Coronavirus pandemic; “however, the financial difficulties have provided opportunities for new experiments and reforms”.

“A tax relief package of Rs56 billion was given to minimise the impact of the pandemic on the economy,” he said while addressing a meeting held here on Friday to review the performance of the Punjab Finance Department.

He further said that the Punjab Revenue Authority (PRA) recorded 41.5 percent increase in the tax collection during the first six months of the fiscal year 2020-21. “Moreover, for the first time, the Punjab government introduced a mobile application, e-Pay Punjab, for tax collection. The application helped the public institutions to gain public confidence,” he added.

According to him, maintaining the annual development budget during the pandemic was a big challenge and the government handled it amicably. By the end of the ongoing fiscal year, more than 90 percent of the development budget will be utilised. Moreover, the reforms introduced to improve the administrative affairs of the province will increase the growth rate in the province.

He was also confident that the World Bank’s 304-million-dollar project to reform the Public Finance Management System will improve service delivery in the province. He added that for the past several years, a large part of the budget had focused on pensions. “However, the tireless work of the finance department has made it possible to increase the resources of the province by Rs59 billion through pension reforms,” he added.

According to him, in the year 2020, they introduced a programme worth Rs55 billion for the development of backward districts, which will eliminate inequality in the province. To fulfill the promises made to the people of south Punjab, a separate secretariat was also set up (in south Punjab). Moreover, tax relief provided to the construction sector has helped daily wagers to secure employment.

He observed that the five-year tax exemption on public-private-partnership projects has encouraged the private sector to invest in the province. He said that the participation of the Bank of Punjab (BoP) in various projects for the promotion of economic activities in the province is also one of the notable achievements of the Punjab government.

“In the year 2019-20, 75 new branches of BoP were opened, making it more accessible to the people. Involvement of private banks in public-private-partnership projects will further strengthen the economic activities in Punjab,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021