ISLAMABAD: The Upper House of the Parliament on Tuesday adopted close to 150 recommendations proposed for the budget of fiscal year 2012-13. Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh promised the House that government would consider most , if not all of them.
The House adopted 141 out of a total of approved 145 recommendations unanimously, while the main opposition, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), opposed four recommendations including suggestions of 100 per cent increase in salaries and allowances of parliamentarians and the formation of a policy to ensure provision of large discretionary funds to all legislators.
“We will try our utmost to reflect these in the final recommendations of the National Assembly,” Hafeez said.
The Senate initiated its business after the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM)walked out after Senator Tahir Hussain Mashhadi on a point of order said that two brothers of former MQM MPA were killed in Karachi on Tuesday. He demanded that the Advisor to Prime Minister on Interior Rehman Malik should give a statement on the issue and clarify the situation.
Leader of the House Jahangir Badar assured Mashhadi that the Interior Advisor will come to the House and give a statement on the issue.
The Senate recommended that instead of declaring the Prime Minister’s House, which according to them is a symbol of dignity and honour of the nation, as an educational institute, the PM House and Secretariat should adopt austerity measures and curtail non-essential expenditure. The House also recommended that in order to enhance tax collection by the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) on assets, the proposed rules ought to be framed in consultation with the provinces in order to avoid potential litigation quagmires. The House also suggested that the rate of tax collected by withholding agents against sales made to traders and distributors might be reduced from one per cent to half a per cent.
It also recommended that financial aid given through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) might be conditioned with compulsory education for children. Simultaneously it suggested the share of Balochistan in BISP to be enhanced.
Through a recommendation, the Senate suggested the National Assembly should ensure promotion of organised micro-finance sector, venture capital financing, cooperative farming, agricultural reforms, small medium enterprises, labour intensive and value additional industries.
The House also recommended improving equity in taxation system by increasing the direct and indirect tax ratio. On resolving the pressing issue of energy shortage, the House recommended a resolution by way of settling the mounting circular debt.
It also called for granting incentives for investment, industrialisation, growth and employment opportunities. The Senate also recommended that import duty on luxury cars above 1600-CC might be enhanced further. To supplement unemployment tackling measures, the Upper House of the Parliament also recommended that instead of the proposed policy of providing 0.1 million youngsters internships, the figure be doubled to 0.2 million so that they may develop their skills.
The senate called for upwardly revising the overall tax GDP ratio, which currently stands at less than 10 per cent, doubling it during the coming fiscal year. The House also suggested that the National Assembly should revisit its allocation of Rs182 billion for the energy sector, calling it insufficient. It recommended that this figure be revised to Rs500 billion to effectively counter the crisis. It also called for an allocation of special funds for the higher education commission within their existing budget for agriculture research and development programme.
Leader of Opposition Senator Ishaq Dar, while opposing the recommendation ensuring provision of development funds to legislators, said that the Rs27 billion resernved in the Finance Bill 2012-13 for the Peoples Works Programme should be diverted to energy sector. The expenses under the PSP are at the discretion of the Prime Minister.
In response to Senator Dar’s objection, Senator Haji Adeel of the Awami National Party complained that the Chief Minister Punjab enjoys discretionary funds amounting to Rs40 billion. He suggested that that fund should be abolished before objections are raised for the Prime Minister’s discretionary programmes.
Earlier, senators including Farah Aqil of ANP, Haji Ghulam Ali of Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazal (JUI-F), Rubina Irfan of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) while taking part in the budget debate, criticised the government for the energy shortage in the country.
Haji Ghulam Ali said the new budget failed to propose any solid steps to eliminate of price hikes nor provided welfare to the masses. He regretted that no allocation was made in the budget for Munda Dam, which bears the capacity tot produce 750 megawatts of electricity. He demanded that the Chashma Left and Right Bank Canal should be completed on a priority basis. Hinting at increased trade with the North Westerly neighbour, Senator Ali said that allocations for the Northern Bypass giving access to Afghanistan should be enhanced. To promote industries in the insurgency struck Fata, he called for relief from taxes.
Rubina Irfan applauded some of the suggestions presented before the house. She said that the impression that budget brings with it a price hike should be removed. She pointed out that the law and order situation in Balochistan was pathetic and needs to be addressed on a priority basis. She was of the view that a country could not prosper unless corruption is eliminated at all levels. The Senator though backed the under fire BISP, terming it a good programme which empowered women.