Govt presents the supplementary finance bill in NA for approval amid Opposition ruckus, protest
ISLAMABAD ( Web News )
The government presented on Thursday in National Assembly, the supplementary finance bill — termed by the Opposition as a “mini-budget” — amid protest and reservations against the bill from Opposition parties. All the amendments proposed by the opposition were rejected by the National Assembly.
The approval of the supplementary finance bill is necessary to ensure Pakistan’s sixth review of the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFE) gets cleared by the IMF’s Executive Board, which is scheduled to meet later this month to decide the disbursement of a $1-billion tranche.
The approval of the finance supplementary bill seeking to amend certain laws related to taxes and duties and the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2021, both tabled on Dec 30, is necessary to ensure that Pakistan’s sixth review of the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility gets cleared by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) executive board.
The session resumed under the chairmanship of NA Speaker Asad Qaiser. Prime Minister Imran Khan, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar and Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi are also in attendance.
PM Imran Khan was welcomed by loud sloganeering from the opposition benches as treasury lawmakers thumped their desks to drown them out.
Finance Minister Shaukat Fayyaz Ahmed Tarin tabled the bill during Thursday’s session. Shortly after, PPP’s Shazia Ata Marri moved a motion recommending that the finance bill be circulated for public opinion under Rule 124 of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly so that it could be demonstrated how “anti-people” it was. However, the motion was opposed by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin.
The opposition lawmakers also called for the House to debate the recommendations put forth by the Senate. PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal Chaudhry said that the recommendations put forth by the Senate regarding the mini-budget had not been discussed and called it an insult to the upper house of Parliament.
Voting also took place on several amendments moved by the opposition to the finance bill that were subsequently rejected through a voice vote.
The opposition demanded that a physical count be conducted for some of the amendments tabled by the opposition, including those by Mohsin Dawar and PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. However, the NA speaker refused under Rule 29 of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly.
A physical count was later conducted on the amendments moved by PPP’s Marri, with 168 lawmakers against it and 150 in favour of it.
Amendments to the finance bill were also moved by MQM MNA Kishwar Zahra, to which the finance minister replied that most of the demands had been accommodated. In response, the MQM MNA thanked the premier and the foreign minister and withdrew the amendments.
During the session, Abbasi questioned why it was necessary for the government to introduce a mini-budget and said that such a massive tax burden had never before been presented in the country’s history.
“It has been six months since you passed the finance bill. Have your revenues declines or expenses increased since then?” he asked. He also questioned why the people were being burdened with additional taxes of Rs350 billion.
In response, Tarin said that the IMF had called for imposing a value-added tax when he had previously served as the finance minister. He also emphasised the need for documenting the economy, stating that people’s incomes were not being taxed because they didn’t fall under the tax net.
He added that some of the taxes in the mini-budget had been removed, informing the opposition that this was about “documentation not taxes”.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the amendments the PPP introduced concerned taxes on crude oil and imported items. “My question to the finance minister is whether they have accepted this. He himself said that they are withdrawing some of the taxes.”
He questioned whether the finance minister had an issue with the fact that it mentioned his name and those of Shazia Marri and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. “What was the harm in it being accepted?”
Referring to the finance minister, Bilawal said that Tarin stated that past governments had made matters worse even though he had previously served as the country’s finance minster.
“Tarin said he did not know why there was hue and cry [over the mini-budget]. We request him to visit the streets of Karachi and ask the people about their economic situation.”
The PPP chairman said that some Karachi lawmakers had moved amendments and had also expressed their reservations regarding the mini-budget. He called on them to reject the finance bill and work with the opposition to steer the country out of the economic situation.
Responding to the PPP chairman, the finance minister said the opposition had claimed that the government was sacrificing the country’s economic sovereignty and national security.
“But they went to the IMF approximately 13 times. Did they forfeit our economic sovereignty each time?” he asked.
Shaukat Tarin rejected the hue and cry of the opposition parties on the bill saying it is aimed at documentation of economy. Shaukat Tarin said the economy is growing and it is expected to touch five percent during the current fiscal year.
He pointed out that there is unprecedented growth of thirty five percent in revenue collection. He said the remittances and the exports are also witnessing growth. There has been bumper production of five crops because of our investment in the agriculture sector.
Shaukat Tarin said the government is focussing on inclusive and sustainable growth. He said we are providing health cards to the households under which each family is entitled to medical treatment worth one million rupees annually.
He said we have launched Kamyab Pakistan Program under which interest free loans are being given for the agriculture and businesses besides construction of houses.
In the session, National Assembly member Mohsin Dawar asked why the production order of Ali Wazir was not issued. He said the opposition had jointly requested for the release of Ali Wazir’s production order, adding that the Wasziristan has been deprived of its right.
Ahsan Iqbal said that six months ago, the finance minister had said in the parliament that the government has saved the economy. He said the present government has destroyed the country’s economy by making petrol expensive, adding that they have shifted the car driver to a motorbike, while the government has also imposed duty on medical equipment and Shaukat Tarin was saying that this bill was inevitable.
Earlier, National Assembly resumed its session at the parliament house in Islamabad on Thursday afternoon with Speaker Asad Qaisar in the chair.
The newly elected Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Shaista Pervaiz Malik took oath of her membership as member of the Lower House. Speaker Asad Qaisar administered the oath.