Opposition grills govt on ‘offshore’ expenses

NA approves 49 more demands for grants, rejects 580 cut-motions


Riazul Haq/qamar Zaman June 21, 2016
Parliament House. PHOTO: NA.GOV.PK

ISLAMABAD: The opposition on Monday rejected the government’s proposed fiscal policies and austerity claims highlighting an allocation of Rs21.8 million to repair washrooms in the prime minister’s ‘offshore’ office during Monday’s debate.

As the National Assembly resumed debate on the budget, it approved 49 demands for grants for the finance ministry and Cabinet Division (CAAD) while rejecting over 580 cut-motions proposed by the opposition.

The lower house of parliament had approved 75 demands for grants on Saturday. Monday’s approval brought that number to 124, or over 80 per cent of 147 demands made. The remaining 23 demands are likely to be taken up today (Tuesday). Dr Nafisa Shah, Shahida Rehmani and Imran Zafar Leghari from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Shehryar Afridi from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Jamshed Dasti quizzed the government over allocating a large sum of Rs21.8 million to repair washrooms.

Dr Shah complained that after the premier’s truancy from Parliament, there were reports that he had summoned his cabinet in London.

“The cabinet is now offshore, this budget is offshore and our policies – at the dictates of IMF (International Monetary Fund) – are also offshore,” she stated.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar tried to defend the government’s policies, promising “out of the box solution” to the economic woes of the country. He, however, admitted the country’s total debt swelled by Rs4.9tr to Rs19.3tr over the last three years.

The opposition pointed out that this increase was a violation of the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act as the debt to GDP ratio was 66 per cent. Dar, though, justified the increase stating that the government has “doubled development budget and Rs250 billion are being spent on operation Zarb-e-Azb.”

The finance minister further added that the government has more than doubled allocations for the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to Rs117 billion from the Rs40 billion during the PPP tenure.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2016.

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