Despite financial issues, welfare projects were not halted: caretaker finance minister

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LAHORE: Caretaker Punjab Minister for Finance and Excise and Taxation Zia Haider Rizvi on Thursday said that when the caretaker government took charge, it faced the issue of payment of Rs71 billion in dues despite that it did not stop the salaries of employees or halt the public welfare projects.

Talking to the media, he said that the centre did not pay the complete share of NFC Award nor were the taxes received according to the estimates. He cited the suspension of taxes levied on telecommunication sector in the light of the Supreme Court (SC) verdict as one of the reasons for this. He said that despite the odds, salaries were paid and public welfare projects were carried on. Regarding the Orange Line project, he said that it is an initiative of the whole country and its payment will be made in this regard.

He said that the first priority of caretaker Chief Minister Dr Hasan Askari is the payment of salaries to the government employees followed by the timely payment of claims amounting less than Rs5 billion. The claims which are more than Rs5 million are placed at the third position so that maximum number of payments could be made to the people doing work with less investment.

“Following the instructions of the caretaker chief minister, the Finance Department has directed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to pay under this formula and the bank remained opened on June 30 as well. On the direction of the caretaker chief minister, issue of the complete payment of Punjab’s share in the NFC Award and the receiving of sales tax on telecommunication services is being raised. Similarly, the issue of additional salaries by different banks like public sector companies has also been noticed. In addition to it, payments through other banks along with Punjab Bank is under consideration and all the relevant rules and regulations will be followed in this regard,” he said.

He also said that the caretaker chief minister has given instructions to the Finance Department to ensure the earliest release of payments to cheques issued by the public sector and autonomous bodies. For that purpose, all the departments were directed to collect the details of their non-paid payments by July 15 so that payments could be immediately made after the approval of the supplementary grant by July 21, he added.

Replying to a question, he said that there was a difference of Rs136 billion in payments made by the former federal government to Punjab. Rs44 billion rupees have been paid in the first week of July while the remaining amount of Rs90 to Rs95 billion is still pending, he added.

Clarifying the misconception about the release of funds to the local government, he said that funds of local governments have not been frozen but are being paid gradually.

Clarifying about the powers and authority of the caretaker setup, the finance minister said that caretaker government cannot release any loan nor recruit anybody. It can only propose a regulatory system which will also be shared with the media, he added.