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May 16, 2018

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Fertilizers, air travel become inexpensive

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on Tuesday said the government had given unprecedented tax relief in 70 years while avoiding imposing new taxes against proposal of the Opposition to increase the tax rate.

“This is happening for the first time in the history that tax burden is being lessen on the masses whereas the Opposition talking about 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. Miftah Ismail said that the upper house furnished 157 recommendations for incorporation in the budget out which 42 have adopted fully or partially. Out of 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 agriculture sector, the finance minister said the government has further reduced sales tax to two percent on the fertilisers. He said the farmers who will pay their outstanding bills in the first quarter of next fiscal year will be given exemption of twenty five percent in the bills. This will benefit the farmers’ community to the tune of Rs60 billion.

The finance minister announced to enhance by 50% the conveyance allowance of government employees of BPS 1-16 and it would 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 recommendation of the Senate, the minister said the Federal Excise Duty on air tickets for long routes is being reduced from Rs2500 to Rs2000 while the proposal for giving tax exemption to matches industry is also being accepted.

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

The finance minister also assured that adjustment in the upper limit of Petroleum Development Levy would not increase the prices of petroleum products.

He said that the allocations of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) had 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 that 12,230 megawatt of power had been added to the national grid which greatly helped bridge the demand and supply gap. He said efforts are effort to reduce the circular debt in order to avoid outages in the summer season.

He also rejected an impression that there was nothing for the middle class whereas he said they had been given major tax relief on their annual income so that 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 tax returns will not be able to purchase property but the limit for this purpose 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 people and today the economy stands at the record growth level,” he said.

He pointed out that it was said that there had been 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 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 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 members of the House, the government on directives of the prime minister would announce a new exports package in the next few days.

The National Assembly held 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 release of funds for construction of Hazara airport.

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