LAHORE - Provincial Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht said on Saturday that provincial departments needed to look at their finances through a new lens and every department should carry out a comprehensive review of its financial health.

Chairing the Austerity Committee's second meeting here at new Ministers Block, he said that different workshops and training seminars would be conducted for the finance-related capacity building of all departments for the purpose.

The minister said, "We have to cut down our expenses and lessen the burden on our economy. Every avenue and option for expense curtailment and resource generation should be explored including review of state-owned land and its possible usage."

Punjab Finance Secretary Sheikh Hamid Yaqoob briefed the meeting that the prime minister had launched an austerity drive to reduce unnecessary expenditures in order to get the best value of public money. In this connection, he added, the PM took the lead and imposed restrictions on discretionary grants, luxury vehicles, protocol and unnecessary staff. In the same manners, he said the Punjab government would adopt an Austerity Policy to reduce non-developmental expenses.

The secretary told the members that the Finance Department earlier issued austerity measures for the FY 2018-19 after getting approval from caretaker government. According to these measure all administrative departments including autonomous bodies, attached departments, local governments, authorities, public sector companies and special institutes would remain within their budgetary allocations to minimise the incidence of supplementary grants.

Further the request for supplementary grants, if unavoidable, would require approval of provincial cabinet or Standing Committee on Finance & Development. There would be complete ban on the foreign visits of ministers, MPAs and government officers/ officials through government funding. The case for foreign visits would be placed in the Austerity Committee for its consideration and subsequent approval of the chief minister through submission of a summary.

Similarly, he said, there would be a complete ban on treatment abroad on the government expense. New vehicles wouldn't be bought except for buses for educational institutions, ambulances etc., which may be purchased after taking approval from the chief minister. No discretionary funds would be granted for renovation of official residences. Approval would be sought from the Austerity Committee before buying durable goods. Strict compliance of aforesaid austerity measures would be ensured by all concerned.

At this point, the committee member expressed their confidence in the austerity measures and also contributed to the suggestions for the upcoming challenges.

The meeting was also attended by provincial ministers for Excise & Taxation and minister for Communications & Works.