No merger of Tourism Dept, says minister
By Khawaja Naseer
LAHORE: There is no proposal to merge the Punjab Tourism Department with the Forestry Department or any other department, Tourism Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal told Daily Times on Monday.
A report printed in a daily newspaper on Monday claimed that a merger was likely and that Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi would be in charge of the new department, whose main purpose would be to develop New Murree.
However, Mr Iqbal said there was no such proposal. He said there was a proposal to model the Murree Development Authority (MDA) on the Capital Development Authority.
The minister said the bill for the New Muree project had already been approved and the town would be built on 3,000 acres of Forest Department land. He said the Communication and Works (C&W) Department would be assigned the task of making New Murree while a board of provincial secretaries would be formed for the allotment of land after construction.
Mr Iqbal said funds for building New Murree would be allocated in the next budget, but a feasibility study was already complete. He gave credit for the project to Chief Minister Elahi.
Punjab government sources said the New Muree project first came up in 1995, but under a different name. Members of the Saudi royal family were reportedly interested in investing and work on the project began in 1998, when Shahbaz Sharif was chief minister, but stopped in 1999 when General Pervez Musharraf came to power in a coup.
A senior official of the provincial government said the merger of various departments was also an old idea, proposed by the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB). The NRB and Institutional Reforms Group (IRG) recommended that the 29 Punjab departments should be restructured and made 22, not including the Local Government and Rural Development, Home, Health, Finance, Law and Education departments.
Under the proposal, the Tourism Department was to be merged with the Forests Department, Irrigation with Agriculture and with Cooperatives, Food with Livestock, the Board of Revenue with Taxation and Excise, Transport with Pollution, Housing with Industries and with Labour and with Planning & Development, with the combined department working under Communication and Works, Zakat & Ushr with Religious Affairs and with Social Welfare and Population, Services and General Administration with Implementation and Communication (I&C), and the Governor’s Inspection Team, now the Chief Minister’s Inspection Team, with the Ombudsman.
The restructuring was meant to reduce administrative load and downsize the bureaucracy. The Punjab government has already started downsizing by reducing the age of retirement to 52.