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Wednesday July 17, 2024

Senate echoes with voices for home-grown budget

He charged that the budget was not made on the basis of performance of the institutions.

By Mumtaz Alvi
June 15, 2024
A general inside view of the Senate building in Islamabad. — State media/File
A general inside view of the Senate building in Islamabad. — State media/File

ISLAMABAD: Legislators in the Senate Friday called for making a home-grown budget based on the ground realities instead of making it on the IMF dictation.

Taking part in the ongoing discussion on the finance bill, JUIF parliamentary leader in the Senate Maulana Attaur Rehman, who is younger brother of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, spoke of civilian supremacy and called for sending the armed forces back to the barracks.

He charged that the budget was not made on the basis of performance of the institutions.

He said the civilian government was helpless, as all the key decisions on foreign policy, internal security and economy were being taken by someone else.

He claimed, “They (rulers) cannot even transfer commissioner and deputy commissioner without permission. All know, politicians are in the front, but who is ruling from behind”.

He questioned why the political forces were blamed for all the wrongs done in their name and they were just helpless.

JUI-F lawmaker termed the general elections 2024 fraud and alleged that the lists of those declared as winners had been handed over to the respective authorities two days ahead of the elections.

He continued that people were brought to the parliament on the basis of pick and choose and that it was not the parliament that represented the people.

He again decried the fact that while the Senate elections were to be conducted in one province (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), the standing committees had been distributed while the House continued to be incomplete; where are we heading?

PMLN Senator Saadia Abbasi pointed out that since 2018, Pakistan has seen seven finance ministers, questioning how there would be consistency in the policies of a country where seven finance ministers served during last six years.

She remarked, “Some of these are called as blue-eyed boys of IMF and some are not but none of them could sustain his position while all of them had a ‘myopic’ view that people didn’t pay taxes, hence the country was not progressing. As a result, they burdened the people with more taxes”.

None of these finance ministers, she noted, ever gave a programme for formulating policies that could take the country out of its innumerable problems and could have meaningful impact on the lives of the people.

She said that the vision of all finance ministers had been regressive taxation and burdening people with imposition of import duties, higher sales taxes, and cess and levies on utilities but they never talked about controlling expenditures or increasing revenues.

A country, she pointed out, that had three or four pivots of powers couldn’t move forward. She emphasized that the government should tell its vision on how to improve the governance, make reforms and decrease the burden of ever-increasing inflation and unemployment on the masses.

She underlined that the auditor general office in its recent report had pointed out that wasteful expenditures, non-compliance with the rule of law, non-adherence to rules and ad hocism were the main problems of Pakistan’s governance. She questioned why any government did not take notice of these issues.

Speaking on the budgetary proposals, Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen Chief Allama Raja Nasir Abbas Jaffari decried the fact the budget had been prepared purely on the IMF dictations, having nothing to do with the prevailing ground realities in Pakistan. “Why does the budget reflect that there is no other way available for us but IMF,” he asked.

He insisted on capitalising on opportunities in the eastern world, including the central Asia Republics, and referred to India, how it had managed to balance its relations with the US, and was also importing petroleum products from Russia, without compromising its national interests and had trade ties with China as well.

“Are we afraid of US that despite Iran having built the gas pipeline up to Pak-Iran border, we are not ready to work on our side of the energy project to meet our energy needs cheaply,” he wondered.

He warned that the budget would only make add to the miseries of the poor and multiply fortunes of the elite and offered no way out for the industries, which faced closure while the youth being the biggest asset could become a liability, if ignored.

PPP’s Sarmad Ali contended that indeed there was a massive gap between available resources and problems in the country.

He noted there had always been just rhetoric that allocation for education should be 4 per cent of the GDP, whereas to the surprise of many, GST had been proposed in the budget on pencils, colour pencils, erasers, sharpeners, calculators and exercise books.

“We just have no idea what is to be achieved by taxing such educational instruments, used by children. This would also increase financial hardships of parents,” he said.

He also pointed out that 10 per cent GST had been proposed on newsprint at a time when the newspapers — the traditional media — were already struggling despite being considered so effective in checking fake news and disinformation trend.

Newspapers, he emphasised, ensure the people’s right to know and safeguarding democratic values, promoting democracy and transparency. He called for withdrawal of GST on newsprint, which has already been called death knell for the newspapers.

He said the newspaper raw material is imported and already they are operating in an uneconomical environment due to rupee-dollar parity.