QUETTA: The Balochistan government on Friday renewed its pledge to accelerate the pace of economic development by adopting different measures through the annual budget as a tool of economic change.
Briefing the media on the salient features of the budget for FY2018-17 at the Sikandar Jamali auditorium of the Civil Secretariat, Balochistan Finance Minister Sardar Muhammad Aslam Bizenjo said that the government would adopt suitable measures to ensure fiscal discipline at all levels.
“The government has plans to curtail unnecessary expenditure and adopt austerity in saving resources,” he said, adding: “For this the government has banned the purchase of luxury vehicles for ministers and officials.”
Bizenjo said: “The tax machinery is being revamped and reorganised to improve tax collection and remove all bottlenecks on its way to boost the pace of economic development.”
The minister told newsmen that 11 oil and gas exploration companies had been issued warnings to start exploration work; otherwise their licences would be cancelled.
Under the 18th Amendment, the provincial government has the powers to issue licences for exploration of oil, gas and other mineral wealth in the province. Earlier, it was the monopoly of the central government.
Responding to a question, the finance minister said: “The budget deficit of Rs52 billion will be met through curtailing expenses, and applying strict fiscal management,” adding: “At the same time, funds have been allocated for Reko Dik copper project once the litigation is settled.”
Bizenjo was of the opinion that Karachi and Islamabad were built as mega cities from the wealth and resources of Balochistan and the local people were denied its benefits.
“Around 7,000 people will be given job in government departments which is the only source of employment,” the minister told a questioner.
To another question, the minister said: “The credentials of 28,000 government servants are being verified and the government will take action in due course.”
At this stage, Finance Secretary Akbar Durrani intervened and told the media that the government had issued orders to register criminal cases against those public servants enjoying double jobs and get double salaries from the public exchequer.
“The establishment of the Balochistan Revenue Authority is a big achievement and it has collected Rs5 billion under sales tax and on services,” Bizenjo said, adding revenue would further increase in the coming years.
He also promised to make more investment in the pension fund to generate more revenue. He said the payment mode had been computerised to single out ghost pensioners. “Similarly, the revenue record is also being computerised initially in four districts followed by other districts, making the revenue and land records credible.”
Responding to a question, he said: “Balochistan has become self-sufficient in wheat production and nine million bags of wheat have already been purchased during the current season.”
The provincial finance minister strongly criticised the Federal Minister for Planning and Development who did not include Balochistan schemes in the Federal PSDP. He said the federal government had spent less in Balochistan and last year’s uplift schemes of Balochistan were included after a lapse of one year by Ahsan Iqbal.
Bizenjo said: “The provincial government will take the issue at the Council of Common Interests.”