No increase in power, gas prices: Cabinet

Denies reports of reversing tax concessions; cost of Metro Bus projects to be probed; PTV BoG approved with eight independent members

 

SIDDEEQ SAJID

ISLAMABAD

Federal cabinet on Thursday decided not to increase electricity and gas prices, while majority of the members opposed the slabs of income tax for salary persons.

The meeting was presided over by Prime Minister held at the PM Office. Cabinet decided special audit of metro buses and Orange train projects and asked the Punjab government to decide about the subsidy for metro buses.

After the federal cabinet, the Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry told in a press conference at the PID that the federal govt has decided against hiking gas and electricity tariffs.

Income tax

The minister also dispelled a newspaper report claiming the government was mulling over reversing tax concessions by bringing down the threshold of income tax exemption on salaried class.

“Oftentimes, newspapers print headlines about things that never happened. There were reports today of the government increasing income tax rates for the salaried class. Nothing like this has happened,” he said.

He said that the finance bill would be sent to parliament for approval. Speaking on the subject of the dam fund, he said that it will be exempted from income and withholding tax.

The federal govt has also decided to dissolve Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) ministry. The cabinet also approved appointment of Haroon Rashid as Chairman Investment Board.

Metro Bus Audit

The federal govt has also decided to probe the cost incurred on Metro Bus projects launched by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s (PML-N) government, stated federal minister for information Fawad Chaudhry.

Shedding light on the whooping cost of projects, the information minister claimed the three Metro Bus projects (Lahore, Multan and Islamabad) were substandard.

“The government of Punjab is giving a subsidy of approximately Rs8 billion on these projects, If this subsidy is not given, all of these projects would close,” Fawad said.

The federal minister informed reporters that the Punjab government gives a subsidy of Rs4.2 billion annually on the Lahore Metro Bus. Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus was built at a cost of approximately Rs39 billion, and the government was paying a subsidy of Rs2 billion. The cost of the Multan Metro Bus was Rs29 billion, the subsidy given was Rs2.1 billion.

Fawad further said that the cost of Peshawar Metro Bus project would be Rs67 billion, no subsidy would be paid, and the buses were rented.

Commenting on the Orange Line project, the minister said the cost of this had reached Rs250 billion. “At this cost, or a little more, we could have doubled the railway track from Khyber to Karachi. We do not know about the subsidy on this project. It seems when it is completed we will need to pay a subsidy of over Rs3.5 billion to run the train.”

PTV BoG

The cabinet also approved the Board of Governors (BoG) for Pakistan Television (PTV), the chairman of which will be a minister and for the first time eight independent people will be included.

According to Fawad the board would comprise a minister (chairman), secretary information broadcasting division (vice- chairman), chairman Higher Education Commission, additional secretary finance, DG ISPR, MD PTV.

The minister informed press of some members included Barrister Ali Zafar, Arshad Khan (being considered for PTV MD), Zohair Khaliq, Shunila Ruth, Professor Ijazul Ehsan, Dr Humayun Ehsan and Savail Hussain.

The information minister further said Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and Qamar Zaman Kaira will be included in PTV’s editorial board.

According to Fawad, the government will stand beside media workers and journalists, defending their rights.

The information minister added Arshad Khan would be PTV’s new MD whereas Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar and Qamar Zaman Kaira will be included in PTV’s editorial board.

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