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May 16, 2018

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Fertilisers, air travel become inexpensive

ISLAMABAD: The Finance Minister, Miftah Ismail, has said the government has given unprecedented tax relief while avoiding imposing new taxes against the proposal of the opposition to increase the tax rate.

“This is happening for the first time in the history that the tax burden is being lessened on the masses whereas the opposition is talking about an increase in the tax rate,” the finance minister, while winding up debate on the budget in the National Assembly (NA) for the fiscal budget 2018-2019, said on Tuesday. Ismail said the upper house furnished 157 recommendations for incorporation into the budget out which 42 have adopted fully or partially. Out of the 157 recommendations, 108 were related to the federal development budget, which has been referred to the Planning Commission.

About the steps taken for the growth of the agriculture sector, the finance minister said the government has further reduced the sales tax to two percent on fertiliser. He said farmers who will pay their outstanding bills in the first quarter of next fiscal year will be given 25 percent exemption in the bills. This will benefit the farmers’ community to the tune of Rs60 billion.

The finance minister announced to enhance the conveyance allowance of government employees of BPS 1-16 by 50% and it would also be applicable to the employees who sit for late hours. He said it is the priority of the government to provide relief to the low-income groups and for this purpose the small housing schemes will be facilitated and encouraged. On the recommendation of the Senate, the minister said the Federal Excise Duty on air tickets for long routes is being reduced from Rs2,500 to Rs2,000.

Ismail rejected the impression that the government has increased the burden of taxes on the low-income groups. “The government believes in serving the masses and upholding the supremacy of democracy,” he said. The finance minister also assured that the adjustment

in the upper limit of Petroleum Development Levy would not increase the prices of petroleum products. He said the allocations of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) have been enhanced three times, whilst Rs10 billion have been proposed for Pakistan Baitul Mal for the next fiscal year.

He said the government had also increased power subsidy to Rs150 billion, saying 12,230 megawatt of power has been added to the national grid which greatly helped bridge the demand and supply gap. He said efforts are being made to reduce the circular debt in order to avoid outages in the summer season. Ismail also rejected an impression that there is nothing for the middle class whereas he said they have been given major tax relief on their annual income so they could spend additional income on meeting requirements of their families.” Previously, a person getting Rs 80,000 per month salary was giving Rs63,500 annual tax which has been brought to zero,” he said.

Miftah Ismail said that the exports are witnessing an increase following the incentives made by the government. He said that non-filers of the tax returns will not be able to purchase the property but this limit has been enhanced from Rs4 million to Rs5 million. He also announced to exempt the matches industry from sales tax. He expressed the confidence that the next year’s budget will give further impetus to the economy and generate economic activities in the country. “We have spent resources on the welfare of the people and today the economy stands at the record growth level,” he said.

He said it is pointed out there is a significant increase in debts. “ There has been 6.1% increase in public debt while net public debt increased by 4.7% from 2013 to 2018, while the same increase was 6.4 and 7/1% from 2008 to 2013,” he said. Miftah Ismail pointed out that the former prime minister, while keeping in view problems of the exporters, announced an Export Policy in January, 2017 which would continue till June 30, 2018. He said in order to give boost to exports and on demand of the members of the House, the government, on directives of the prime minister, would announce a new export package in the next few days.

The National Assembly held a discussion on the charged expenditures pertaining to different departments including Pakistan Railways, civil works, Federal Tax Ombudsman, Islamabad High Court, Supreme Court and Pakistan Post. The house has approved 94 demands for grants pertaining to different departments for the next fiscal year. The house also passed a resolution demanding the release of funds for the construction of Hazara airport.

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