‘Lethal & poisonous’: PTI labels Budget 2024-25 as IMF-dictated

Party says budget was presented by those who reached the parliament on Form-47

Rizwan Shehzad   June 13, 2024
Opposition Leader in National Assembly Omar Ayub Khan speaking to the media outside Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi on Thursday, May 23, 2024. SCREENGRAB


Minutes before the budget session started, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb was trying hard to focus on his upcoming speech and how would he deliver it; unsure if he should keep standing or sit until the session formally begins; occasionally taking a sip of water; and frequently checking the reading material if it was placed in order or not.

Just when he was busy making up his mind on how would he deliver his first-ever budget speech, a loud slogan shook up the National Assembly hall: “Kon Bachaye Ga Pakistan [who will save Pakistan], Imran Khan, Imran Khan,” announcing the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-turned Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) – PTI-SIC – lawmakers’ entry into the assembly, clearly conveying opposition’s mood.

The sloganeering set the mood for the remainder of the inaugural budget session as PTI-SIC MNAs kept shouting slogans in favour of PTI founding chairman Imran Khan and against PM Shehbaz Sharif and government; held Imran’s posters, carried play cards against the budget and didn’t allow the banker-turned financial czar to smoothly deliver his maiden budget speech.

Just like previous years, the budget books and other reading material was mercilessly used to slam down on the desk to create noise and distrust proceedings. Occasionally, the PTI-SIC lawmakers tore papers and flew them in the air as well; MNA Jamshed Dashti was most active among them and didn’t even hesitate to torn papers from the books placed on desks.

The opposition parties’ legislators gathered near PM Shehbaz’s chair and kept shouting slogans against him and in favour of their incarcerated leader. Seeing the opposition MNAs slowly moving closer to PM Shehbaz, the ruling PML-N lawmakers got up from their chairs and built a shield around PM’s chair. Sensing that things could take a wrong turn, PTI Chief Whip Amir Dogar was also seen asking his lawmakers to maintain distance so that the protest doesn’t lead to any physical clash.

In the rest of the session, the opposition didn’t take any break from sloganeering and protest, which could allow Aurangzeb to take a sigh of relief. Both sides continued doing the same till the session was adjourned for meeting again after Eid, when Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly, Omar Ayub, would give opening speech on budget.

Also read: Govt unveils Rs18.877 trillion budget with record development fund, salary hikes

While reacting to the budget, the opposition leader termed it as anti-people and said that the government didn’t consult any stakeholder. Talking to media outside the parliament house, Ayub, Barrister Gohar, Ali Muhammad Khan, Asad Qaiser, among others, said that the party that got majority in the house was thrown on the opposition benches and the budget was presented by those who reached the parliament on Form-47.

PTI reaction

Later on, the party issued a statement, calling it the IMF-dictated and tax-heavy budget as a lethal and poisonous budget for the inflation-stricken people, which will have devastating effects on the economy and the common man because it would trigger a storm of inflation. In addition, the opposition party called it an anti-people budget of the federal government, saying it will not only lead to ‘economic murder’ of the people but keep attacking the daily life of the common man.

The party said that the current budget is actually an IMF budget, which does not include any input of the government. It said that the target of economic growth rate for the next fiscal year has been set at 3.6 per cent when the World Bank has said that the growth rate will not exceed 2.4 per cent.

PTI also said that that the target of 12 per cent inflation rate is “totally unrealistic”, saying it will be impossible to achieve keeping in line with the budget. Additionally, the party feared that there will be a storm of inflation as a result of heavy taxes imposed on people. On tax target of Rs12,970 billion, PTI said that the 38 per cent increase is a “very cruel move by the government”.

The party spokesperson pointed out that non-tax revenue, which was a major source of inflation, had been surged to Rs3,587 billion, adding the budget deficit, which according to the finance minister would be 6.9 per cent of the GDP, would go to the highest level in history. He feared that the abolishment of tax exemptions on exporters would adversely affect domestic exports, besides the increase in tax on real estate sector would not only cause panic in the market but also encourage transactions through cash.

He went on to say that after paying the money to the provinces, the income of the federal government will be Rs9,119 billion, which is insufficient to pay only Rs9,775 billion as interest. PTI spokesperson stated that for the first time, the pension bill has been increased of the civil government expenditure of Rs839 billion to Rs1,014 billion, adding that the salaried class has been strangled by increasing the tax rate from 35 to 45 per cent and changing the tax slabs.

The PTI spokesperson stated that for the first time, the tax on the real estate sector has been increased to 15% and for the poor section of non-filers to 45%, adding that inclusion of late filer category was another “stupid move” by the government. He said that surprisingly Rs593 billion were allocated for the Benazir Income Support Programme benefiting families only 9.3 to 10 million, adding that in contrast to PM Shehbaz Sharif's claim of earmarking Rs1,800 billion for the agriculture package, allocating only Rs5 billion was mere a joke.

The PTI spokesperson noted that in the context of 12 per cent inflation rate, the proposal of 22 to 25 per cent increase in the salaries of government employees was beyond comprehension. He said that the increase in petroleum levy up to Rs80 was another attempt to burden the public, adding that federal budget 2024-25 was a set of contradictions, which was against people, employment and economic development.


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