ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly approved on Saturday the Finance Bill for fiscal year 2014-15 with a total outlay of Rs4.3 trillion, accepting some amendments moved by the government and rejecting all the ones from the opposition benches.
Following a nine-day discussion, the 149-page Finance Bill was moved by Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar that was passed by the House with a majority in clause-by-clause reading.
The passage of the Finance Bill successfully brought to an end the budgetary process, which started on June 3, 2014 when the budget speech was presented by the finance minister at the National Assembly.
The bill will be sent to the president for assent, signing and to turn it into a law. It will be applicable from July 1, 2014.
The House echoed with desk thumping as it passed the budget in the presence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who also witnessed the passage of the budget.
The Senate had made 133 recommendations, of which the government accepted 57. These were fully or partially incorporated in the federal budget.
Once signed into law, the bill will increase the number of families for the Benazir Income Support Programme from 4.1 million to 5.3 million.
The crop insurance will be increased to 25 acres and prices of fertilisers will be reduced by Rs300 per bag.
The government will also impose a uniformed income tax of 4% on first class air travel and would reduce the sales tax on solvent extractors from 17% to 16%.
The government will withdraw the exemptions of Rs103 billion under its endeavor for phased-elimination of Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) aimed at favoring influential ones.
The Finance Bill also provides a special package of Rs36 billion for all provinces. Of this, Balochistan will receive Rs14 billion, Sindh will get Rs8 billion, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will receive Rs4 billion, Fata will get Rs4 billion, AJK Rs3 billion and Gilgit-Baltistan will receive Rs2 billion.
As part of the budgetary approval, the House also approved demands for grants worth Rs2.6 trillion, besides charged expenditures.
Following the passage of the budget, the finance minister falicitated the National Assembly, Senate and the whole nation on the approval of the budget, saying that the government was committed to take the country to its bright future as per the vision of founder of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
He informed the National Assembly that the country's foreign currency reserves had reached to $14.2 billion.
He said that due to its prudent policies, the government had managed to cross the $14 billion mark, and in the future it would continue taking steps to further improve the foreign currency reserves.
'Loadshedding to end within four years'
Dar, while speaking to the National Assembly, said that loadshedding would be brought to an end within three to four years by adding 11,000 megawatts (MW) power to the national grid.
Responding to a question raised by the Opposition regarding the budget, Dar said that the country is currently facing a peak power shortfall of 4500MW.
He further added that the government has taken effective steps to reduce line losses from 16% to a respectable level and that a massive campaign has been launched to reduce gas and power theft.
Refuting allegations that the Nandipur power generation project was not generating power, the minister said that the 100MW power plant is operational.
Dar said that the provinces would be given an additional Rs300 million from federal divisible pool during the next financial year. In the current year, provinces would get Rs200 billion more as compared to last year, he added.
He said a transparent procedure has been adopted for new appointments in government departments and the appointment of cronies has been made impossible.
Rejecting allegations against the laptop scheme, Dar said that the country's youth has been connected to the world's leading libraries through 3G and 4G.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ