Monday July 15, 2024

Senators warn of revolution if Rs3.8tr direct taxes imposed

Government was warned of revolution if the proposals to impose Rs3.8 trillion direct taxes were approved, as the people were already facing an acute financial hardship

By Mumtaz Alvi
June 21, 2024
PTI Senator Syed Ali Zafar gestures as he speaks to the media at an event. — APP/File
PTI Senator Syed Ali Zafar gestures as he speaks to the media at an event. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The government was warned in the Senate on Thursday of a revolution if the proposals to impose Rs3.8 trillion direct taxes were approved, as the people were already facing an acute financial hardship.

The warning came during the ongoing budget discussion in the House from PTI’s parliamentary leader Syed Ali Zafar, who described the budget as a recipe for disaster, and insisted that history bore testimony to the fact as to what happened when an unrepresentative government levied taxes.

Taking part in the discussion as the first speaker when the House resumed after the Eid holiday break, Zafar pointed out three major examples and said monarchy in the United Kingdom ended after the King imposed taxes. Likewise, he noted when the tax was imposed in America, people came out, rejecting it and their country got independence. Similarly, he continued that when the monarchy in France levied taxes, people rejected it and chanted ‘no representation, no taxes’ and a revolution happened there. Zafar contended that the incumbent government did not represent the masses who had given a clear mandate to the PTI, which was stolen.

He said the finance minister claimed to have diagnosed the disease, blaming the government’s unnecessary intervention in the economy for slow growth and also described a market-based economy as the solution. However, he emphasized that the aims and objectives of the finance minister appeared to be missing from the budget documents, except for direct and indirect taxation. Likewise, he could not find any proposal to curtail government spending either. The budget seeks to tax the salaried class and pensioners, besides taxing the real estate sector, which was already facing trouble. He said the budget did not reflect any plan to reduce government intervention and boost economic growth.

Senator Zafar said the budget also fell short of giving any idea on how to make up for the Rs8,500 bn deficit. The government would go for loans from the local banks, contact foreign lenders and ask the SBP to print more notes, which would further complicate the economic situation. He contended that the proposal to enhance tax revenues by 40 percent would further slow down economic growth. The lawmaker said he could not find any strategy to break the vicious circle of borrowing, whereas over half of the revenues would go into debt servicing. He predicted that a mini-budget would be announced in the next two months.

“The budget has been prepared by people having no idea of the troubles it would create for the common man. It has been prepared in panic and in crisis,” he maintained and blamed the Election Commission of Pakistan for the present political crisis. He contended that there would be no economic stability as long as political unrest prevailed.

Taking part in the discussion, JUIF Senator Kamran Murtaza from Balochistan prayed for a revolution as a consequence of what had been done to the country over the last 76 years. He also raised a question on the legal status of Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), alleging the body was meant to grab the resources of smaller provinces. He continued the army also had representation in the council, and that the matters had gone under the control of somebody else. Senator Kamran singled out intense social injustice as the main reason behind the disturbance in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and said the people were even being deprived of their rights guaranteed by the Constitution. He went on to say Pakistan had not witnessed a truly elected government in the last 76 years.

Murtaza alleged that the general elections were sold out this time as well, and asked if those who came to power as a result of such elections and presented the budget were chosen representatives. He emphasized they were not chosen by the people but by the establishment.

Taking the floor, Faisal Vawda, who is also a member of the Senate House Committee on Finance, said Pakistan had suffered a lot due to the absence of consistency and continuation of policies and referred to what he called a bifurcation of policy about duty on hybrid vehicles. He said during the committee meeting, different departments expressed ignorance about the omission of item 73 from Schedule 8. He called for indulgence of the House and urged Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, who is also Leader of the House and was present in the Senate, that heads must roll by fixing responsibility. He regretted that such policy deviations and ‘cherry picking’ would only discourage investment in the country.

Haji Hidayatullah of Awami National Party regretted that on the one hand, salaries had been increased and on the other hand, taxes had been increased. He called for relief to the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in electricity bills, allocation of reasonable amounts for the Malakand Tunnel and inclusion of building a road from Chakdara to Dir in PSDP.

PTI’s Dr Humayun Mohmand said there was a lot of talk about the filers and non-filers and claimed there were many non-filers who had bought flats in Dubai and London. He contended that it was useless to speak on the budget which, he charged, was not made by public representatives. “Just look at the allocations made for education, health and defence; you will get to know what our priorities are. In 1971, Pakistan was 70 percent ahead of Bangladesh and today, they are 45 percent ahead of us economically,” he noted. He blamed the PPP, and PML-N governments for the country’s economic mess and poor shape of state-run entities and pointed out that PIA was a leading airline once and so was Pakistan Steel Mills, which had been earning profit till 2008. “Thanks to these two leeches, which destroyed these entities and continue to suck blood of people even today,” he alleged. The House was adjourned to meet again on Friday morning due to a lack of quorum, pointed out by the opposition during the speech of Senator Bilal Khan Mandokhail.