Senators demand revision of budget draft

Opposition lawmakers warn against increase in poverty and crime


Khalid Mehmood June 21, 2019
Pakistan Senate. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The opposition lawmakers during Senate proceedings on Friday again rejected the budget for the fiscal year 2019-20 budget maintaining that approving it would increase poverty and crime and demanded a review of its draft.

The session of the upper house of the parliament was presided over by Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.

Participating in the debate, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Senator Sirajul Haq said it was for the first time in the country’s history that everyone agreed on rejecting the budget.

“The government has not prepared this budget on its own,” he maintained. “After an IMF [International Monetary Fund] representative issued a statement, an elected MNA [former finance minister] Asad Umar was replaced with an unelected figure,” he added.

“The budget has no direction for education, energy, healthcare and development sectors. Education and healthcare funds have been cut down by 20 percent.”

The JI senator also demanded the formation of a commission to investigate the increase in the price of sugar.

Haq pointed out that the upper house of the parliament was not even consulted before preparing the budget.

He urged the government to withdraw taxes on sugar, ghee, cooking oil and other edible items as it would overburden the common man.

Senator Mushahidullah Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) maintained that the country did not face an economic crisis before 2017 and Pakistan Stock Exchange was among the five best stock markets of the world.

“Now the situation has grown so worse that the country has been handed over to the IMF for a bailout package,” he alleged.

“Inflation has skyrocketed. Even Asad Umar has criticised the budget. Currently, the biggest issue faced by the county is the lack of healthcare facilities and the government has allocated nothing for it.”

The PML-N senator criticised the government for demolishing the homes of the poor on the pretext of an anti-encroachment drive.

“The government is claiming that it will build shelter homes for the homeless but at the same time razing the homes and shops of the poor,” he said. “Even the offices of the Edhi Foundation were razed.”

From the treasury benches, Senator Aurangzeb Khan blamed the previous governments for piling up the debt to Rs24 trillion.

“The past two governments recklessly took loans and spent them on non-productive sectors,” he claimed.

“The commission announced by the prime minister will investigate the loans obtained during the previous 10 years and the findings of the commission will make it as to who is responsible for country’s economic crisis.”

He said a huge amount of Rs183 billion had been being allocated for the development of merged tribal districts. Describing the budget as poor-friendly, the senator said taxes were only imposed on the rich and the common man would not be affected.

He proposed that the government should revise the taxes on ghee and steel mills in the tribal districts and exempt from duties.

Senator Rehman Malik of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said the journey of the country's economic downhill slide had started when governments started taking foreign loans

.He stressed the need for allocating more funds for the healthcare sector as that there were over 166,000 Aids patients in the country and the number would further increase if measures were not taken to curb the outbreak.

Malik also called for increasing the salaries of government employees keeping in view the increasing rate of inflation in the country.

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