Punjab to invite private-sector investment for development projects

Lahore – The provincial government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in Punjab has said that it is striving to involve private sector in the development programme in an effort to ensure a smooth flow of funds to key projects.

Punjab Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht, who is extensively focusing on improving the human development index of the province by targeting the neglected sectors of health and education, said his government intended to open up the province to the private sector in certain development programmes. The mode of cooperation will be either public-private partnership or build-operate-transfer (BOT) model.

“We will create new avenues of revenue generation besides evaluating previous projects,” Bakht emphasised in an interview with The Express Tribune. “All those projects which are not generating revenues or are running on subsidies will be evaluated and will eventually be turned into revenue-generating schemes.”

He pointed out that regional equality was the key to success and for that purpose the government would have to provide equal opportunities throughout the province.

“Unfortunately, previous governments were Lahore-centric and focused only on developing the golden triangle in the province,” Bakht said while referring to the infrastructure spending in central Punjab. “We will develop another golden triangle, connecting main cities via infrastructure development in south Punjab, so that neglected parts become visible.”

He clarified that the provincial government would kick off all main projects, no matter to which category they belonged, by stimulating private-sector investment.

“We will spend more on health and education, which many policymakers believe is a non-development expenditure, but actually these are the sectors where human development actually happens,” the minister said.

“It’s a wrong classification, if allocating funds in the Annual Development Programme (ADP) is the key, then why Punjab is lagging behind despite announcing big ADPs in the past five years.”

Besides creating another triangle, the province is looking to utilise its vacant land for commercial and industrial purposes. “This will give a boost to economic activities and the government will also be able to generate revenue by properly utilising the land,” Bakht said.

Talking about finances of the province, the finance minister pointed out that the government would try to accelerate its revenue stream through non-tax revenues besides strengthening the Punjab Revenue Authority (PRA) in order to widen the tax base.

“Many departments, other than the PRA, can generate non-tax revenues for us,” he revealed. Bakht was of the view that Punjab had also to look at its growing payment bills, no matter whether they were in the shape of pensions or other heads, which should be curbed.

The minister hinted that his government would streamline commodity operations. “Currently, Rs447 billion is spent on commodity operations, but there is no crop rotation; policy planning is needed in this crucial sector besides adding more commodities to the food basket.”

Talking about ongoing development projects, he vowed that all projects would be completed as the government had to deliver services. “All projects nearing completion will be finished as there is no point in wasting money, however, after the completion of these projects, we will create a mechanism on how to reduce subsidy on such services,” Bakht said.

"Monitoring Desk"

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