NA adopts Senate’s budgetary proposals

Proceedings marred by thin attendance, adjournment


Sardar Sikander June 18, 2016
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar present the 2016-17 budget in the National Assembly. PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: The final day of the budget session in the National Assembly on Friday witnessed a lackluster response from lawmakers who, while demanding that less developed areas should be given priority in the budget for FY2016-17, endorsed the budgetary recommendations made by the Senate a day earlier for the new financial year.

Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq had to adjourn the session for one hour after PTI MNA Shireen Mazari pointed out that the House lacked quorum. The recommendations made by the Senate are non-binding on the Lower House of parliament.

Debating the Senate recommendations, PTI MNA Amjad Ali Khan Niazi hailed the Upper House for proposing to set up universities in Balochistan.

“The deprived province of Balochistan needs uninterrupted investment in education and healthcare, and in projects that offer employment opportunities to the Baloch so that their grievances can be addressed.”

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Investment in Balochistan is also necessary to counter Iran’s Chabahar Port, Niazi added. “We should also take up this issue diplomatically by pursuing a prudent yet aggressive foreign policy.” The MNA also hailed the Senate’s proposal to exempt agricultural machinery from taxes and to make investment in solar energy to meet our agricultural needs. Niazi asked the government to brief the NA how national debt has mounted manifolds. “Our begging bowl is expanding.”

Aftab Sherpao from the QWP endorsed the proposal that the government should take immediate measures for holding population census. “All of this would be a futile exercise without population census.” Sherpao said a very small amount of funds has been allocated for Fata in the new budget, demanding that the budget for Fata should be included in the NFC Award.

“The tiny grant of Rs20 billion for Fata is nothing but peanuts.” He lauded the Upper House for proposing construction of roads and infrastructure in Fata as well as prioritising the Western route of the CPEC. The Customs Act needs to be abolished in Malakand Division, Sherpao demanded.

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Mehmood Khan Achakzai from the PkMAP demanded of the government to take urgent steps aimed at overcoming acute water shortage in Balochistan. “It is the first wonder of the world that the people living alongside a river pray for rains to overcome the paucity of water.” The construction of small dams in Balochistan was the need of the hour, Achakzai viewed.

Interestingly, the MNA recommended curtailing salaries of TV anchors, members of the bureaucracy and the security establishment to bring their earnings at par with those of parliamentarians.

“If the national kitty is really empty and Pakistan faces financial problems, the salaries of bureaucrats -- civilian or military -- and television anchors, who speak against us all the time, should be cut and brought at par with our salaries.” Shazia Mari from the PPP-P hailed the Upper House’s budgetary proposals to impose advanced tax and for the removal of stationery tax. However, she strongly opposed the Senate’s proposal that MPs from both the houses of parliament who have financial backgrounds should be involved in the budget making process.

Naeema Kishwar Khan from the JUI-F endorsed the recommendation that significant funds should be allocated immediately for population census; that the CPEC’s Western route should be prioritized; and financial assistance for IDPs should be increased.

Sahibzada Tariqullah from the JI said significant funds have not been recommended for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in the Senate’s proposals.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2016.

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