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Punjab Finance Minister Monday said that the province will be on almost Rs 250 billion budget surpluses if it is able to meet its revenue generation targets. The government had paid Rs 56 billion debt it owed from previous government in shape of contractors' bills.

Addressing the launching ceremony of "Punjab Component of Ease of Doing Business 2020 report," the minister said within one year of our government, Pakistan has jumped 28 places in the international ease of doing business ranking and was placed as top performer in South Asia and 6th in the world. This rise has been unprecedented in the recent past. This was the top agenda of the prime minister since day one, however we should now work on bringing the number to double-digit and also develop a healthy competition nationally between cities to progress more on indicators."

The reform initiatives that were undertaken by this government to improve the overall business environment in the province contributed to the unprecedented increase of 28 points in Pakistan's ranking in the doing business index.

He added that crucial work on improving business environment is under way and it will bear the desired results for making Punjab a business-friendly province. He congratulated the P&D Board for taking forward the reform agenda aggressively and working on the improved ranking.

Advisor to the Chief Minister, Dr Salman Shah said that the improved rankings were a result of collaboration and coordination between departments and the commitment of the government to ensure ease of business for everyone and to encourage investors. He told that new investments will create new jobs and hence bring prosperity to the country.

The minister said that financial position of the province and Bank of Punjab is stable and improving. The BOP has announced profit to the shareholders while increase in Non Performing Loans (NPLs) was due to bad economic conditions. Further, the revenue of the metro bus was increased with increase in fare by Rs 10 while the transport department was asked to submit details of increase in fare so that evaluation would be made on its impact on ridership of metro buses. He said there was no financial hindrance for Orange Line Metro Train project while it will operational in ongoing fiscal year. He said fare of OLMT will decide in accordance with the business plan of the project.

Regarding south Punjab province, the minister said that without two third of majority in assemblies and senate it could not be done.

The Minister said that human resource development of local government institutions would be focused under forthcoming Provincial Finance Commission (PFC) while it will not delay the local governments' election. He said the funds were released and approved on justified demands of the member assemblies. He said that required funds for Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme was approved and released whenever demanded.

To a question, the Minister said that working on the World Bank projects was continued and the objections were removed on which the Bank had shown reservations. He said the government was not advertising its development projects and work. But it doesn't mean the government is not investing in development and province is not progressing, he added.

In fact, the minister said that judicious use of development budget was ensured and province was progressing in a better way on development front. He said good news from agriculture sector was starred coming and cotton crop reports were encouraging. The government is introducing agriculture reforms in the province as reforms are crucial for the positive change.

Responding to a question, the minister said that first time in the history South Punjab budget was being utilized there and through legislation it was ensured that fund would be spent in the region only.

Finance Secretary said that over Rs 22 billion supplementary grants were rejected on logical grounds while seven meetings were held for Resource Mobilization Committee (RMC). He said that resource mobilization management unit of the Finance Department in completion phase.

Addressing the participants, Chairman P&D Board said, "as the focal agency for the Doing Business in Punjab, P&D brings all other departments and agencies on board and with the supervision provided by the Chief Secretary and Minister for Finance ensures seamless execution. He further added that Government is working on the concept of regulatory guillotine with a view to rationalize, modernize and automate business regulations.

Secretary, BOI appreciated the efforts of all provincial departments who worked tirelessly to implement this reforms agenda. He stressed the need for effective and efficient coordination between the provincial and federal agencies.

Chairman P&D Board Habib-ur-Rehman Gillani, Secretary P&DB Imran Sikandar Baloch, Secretary Board of Investment Omer Rasool, Chairman Lahore Chamber of Commerce Industry Irfan Sheikh, representatives of federal and provincial departments, media personalities, and private sector also attended the ceremony.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019