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The Punjab Cabinet today approved policies on tourism, advertisement and foodgrain transportation even as all ministers announced that they would voluntarily pay their own income tax, which at present is being given from the state exchequer. The development comes within days of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh suggesting that elected representatives of the state, including ministers and MLAs, pay their own income tax. In a Cabinet meeting, chaired by Amarinder Singh here, it was announced that all state ministers would voluntarily pay their own income tax, which is currently being paid out of the government exchequer. The announcement followed a personal appeal by the chief minister during a meeting of the state Cabinet here, an official spokesperson said. With respect to MLAs, Amarinder Singh had said that the final decision on their self-payment of income tax would be taken after receiving their feedback on the proposal. The tax is currently being paid by the government and draining the exchequer, the chief minister had said on Tuesday. Punjab is probably the only state in the country to follow the system of the government paying taxes for all ministers and MLAs, Amarinder Singh had said. The tax being paid by the state government on this account stood at Rs 11.08 crore, while Rs 10.72 crore was spent on payment of income tax of the MLAs, the remaining was for the ministers, an official release said. The Cabinet also approved the Punjab Municipal Outdoor Advertisement Policy-2018, aimed at regulating the process of outdoor advertising in order to address technological changes in the field, while ensuring enhanced public safety, the release said. It is expected that this policy would lead to generation of an additional Rs 200 crore in revenue for the state. The new policy stipulates provisions relating to permissible content on outdoor advertisement and also provides for identification of suitable places where advertisement rights can be awarded, it said. In the absence of such a policy, the government was being deprived of revenue while private companies were making money, Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu told the Cabinet. Another major decision of the cabinet was to approve the draft of Punjab State Tourism Policy, 2018, aimed at doubling the annual tourist visits and establishing the state as a world-class destination in the next five years, the official release said. Giving its approval on the draft, the state cabinet agreed that the new policy would help attract high value tourism through responsible and sustainable development of sensitive tourism resources through a series of initiatives, including information dissemination and optimal use of electronic techniques including the social media. The new policy, aimed at providing impetus to the tourism industry, will replace the existing tourism policy, it said. Under the new policy, the state government would work to double the annual tourist visits from 25 million to 50 million in the next five years by creating new infrastructure and improving the existing one, the release said. To facilitate smooth and timely procurement of grains during the 2018-19 Rabi season, the Punjab Cabinet has given its nod to the Punjab Food Grains Transportation Policy, 2018-19 and the Punjab Labour & Cartage Policy, 2018-19. Meanwhile, a cabinet sub-committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu to crackdown on unauthorised occupation of government land in the state, the release said. Finance Minister Manpreet Badal and Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa are other members of the committee, an official spokesperson said. The sub-committee has been tasked with identification of such unauthorised occupation.
It will also suggest ways and means of getting such properties vacated in order to help the state government monetise them and raise the much-needed revenue, he said. The Cabinet also approved restructuring and renaming of key departments relating to planning and policy, a release said. It gave the go-ahead to renaming the Department of Planning as Department of Economic Policy and Planning, while the Punjab State Planning Board will be known as Economic Policy and Planning Board. This will help the two units to primarily focus more cogently on formulating policies for the development of the state, and on monitoring and reviewing the implementation of these policies, besides suggesting mid-course corrections. The decision has been taken following the abolition of Planning Commission, the Government of India, which has now been replaced with the NITI Aayog - an organisation entrusted with the task of policy making, the official release said.
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