NA puts off vote on mini-budget

Dar criticised for 'nonchalant', 'indifferent' attitude towards poor; MNAs press for easing burden on common man

Saqib Bashir February 17, 2023


The National Assembly session discussing the recently presented mini-budget was adjourned on Friday without a vote on the bill that is crucial to unlocking stalled $6.5 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan programme with additional taxes.

The session will now resume on February 20 (Monday) at 5 pm.

The crucial Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2023, if passed by the house, will help in reviving the delayed programme and stave off default amid pessimistic forecasts from economists as well as chorus of warnings that it could exacerbate the country's spiralling inflation.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had formally unveiled a Rs170 billion mini-budget that carried some highly inflationary measures but spared the commercial banks and traders of any new taxation, weakening the coalition government’s case of putting a burden on the sectors which could bear it the most.

The case of commercial banks was more glaring given the fact that the finance minister had announced in the recent past to impose heavy taxes on them to punish them for “currency manipulation”. He had stated last year that the banks made about Rs50 billion in undue profits, which the government would recover by imposing additional taxes.

The bill also contained some measures, which have failed to yield any significant revenues in the past such as the imposition of a 10% advance income tax on public-private gatherings and functions.

'Dar indifferent about poor'

During the session on Friday chaired by NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, PPP MNA Qadir Mandokhail recalled that his party had carried out a long march against inflation while urging the government to impose levy on luxury cars and homes, and ease the burden on the poor.

He suggested that social media applications such as WhatsApp and Twitter should also be brought into the tax net. “The government should take special care of the poor, the least burden should be placed on the poor people,” he added.

Mandokhail also claimed that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had planned to sabotage the IMF accords after audio leaks of Shaukat Tareen, Jaafar Laghari and Taimur Jhagra surfaced.

Speaking on the floor, Mutahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) MNA Sheikh Salahuddin criticised Dar for his “nonchalant” attitude towards the dire straits confronting the country.

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He asserted that MQM-P had formed an alliance with the incumbent PDM only to prevent default and help lift the country out of the economic crisis.

Salahuddin lamented that the rupee had depreciated, and petrol, electricity and gas prices also skyrocketed. “These bombs had already been dropped on the public. And then our finance minister dropped another bomb on February 15,” he furthered.

PTI's dissenting MNA Afzal Dhandla criticised the finance minister for making basic amenities like electricity and gas out of people’s reach and added that “everything was uncontrollably expensive”.

“The finance minister is here to talk about Kisan Package, however, according to farmers’ notices lands are being sold for non-payment of agricultural loans of Rs300,000,” he said and questioned how farmers could advocate the package.

NA Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf stated that the recommendations of the Senate on the Finance Amendment Bill 2023 were received by the National Assembly. He furthered that NA members could also discuss the recommendations.

PPP MNA Agha Rafiullah said that there was no doubt that the poor were under immense pressure and that members of the government or opposition had to return to the people.

“If you follow the rate method to get rid of inflation, you will get rid of it,” he said, adding that markets should be shut by 6 pm.

He asked the NA to ban vehicles with more than 1800 cc and urged MNAs to use public transport. Rafiullah also emphasised the privilege of bureaucrats who possessed several cars.

“There are privileges only for the powerful and no one else,” he added.

MNA Saira Bano from the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) also criticised the government for the increase in taxes and stated that it was impossible for common people to meet their needs due to inflation.


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