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Budget 2019-2020: All depts to face cut in expenses

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June 10, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan on Sunday said the government had decided to cut back on unnecessary expenditure in all state institutions, ministries and divisions in the budget 2019-2020. She was talking to reporters after attending a party huddle at the Banigala residence chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The huddle discussed the budgetary proposals and their impact and the country’s current political situation. Prime Minister's Adviser on Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood, Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar, Governor State Bank of Pakistan Dr. Raza Baqir, Chairman Federal Board of Revenue Syed Shabbar Zaidi and others concerned were in attendance. The prime minister called for tabulation of a poor-friendly budget that should have the distinction of austerity. He was hopeful of an economic jumpstart next month.

The government’s official spokespersons also met the prime minister. It was decided that the top party leaders will devise a strategy to address any chaos created by the opposition after the announcement of budget. The National Assembly session has already been summoned for Monday afternoon. The budget will be presented tomorrow by Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. Prime Minister Imran and Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif are likely to be in the House during the budget speech of Dr. Hafeez Sheikh. In the meeting, Prime Minister Imran promised austerity with regard to the upcoming budget. He vowed that the government was striving to cut maximum expenditures and that the merged tribal districts’ development was a top priority of the government.

Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan cautioned against making presumptions about the upcoming budget, which she described as "people-friendly". She warned the opposition parties against doing politics of chaos and commotion under the garb of protest.

“This is the government's first properly planned budget. It was drafted after having engaged the economic and financial team and keeping in view and focusing on the people's needs,” Awan said. Prime Minister Imran Khan analysed, assessed the budget 12 times, evaluated it and kept as his foremost priority the downtrodden, the vulnerable segments of the society which remained neglected. “The burden of the budget has always been placed on the non-affording class, the poor people,” she said. The number one priority was to have a sustainable economy to be retained with consistent, untiring efforts, she explained, adding that the salient features of budget would be unveiled in the Economic Survey Report. She said the budget will represent the PTI’s long-term road map and way forward, address objectives for the next five years, and reflect the PTI manifesto. She said by presenting an austerity budget the government’s aim was to cut back on unnecessary expenditure in all government institutions, ministries and divisions. Dr. Awan reminded that the trend had been first set by the Pakistan Army. “They froze their annual [budgetary] increase. They decided that the officers placed on high ranks will not avail themselves of increased perks, privileges and salaries and that the budgetary benefits will be transferred to their lower ranking officers of up to Grade 16.” “Our ignorant opposition is raising a hue and cry that we may have risked the country's national security with this initiative. In no way is the government and the prime minister oblivious to the nation's defence requirements...the prime minister as well as the chief of army staff have decided in consultation with one another that the foregone increase in defence budget shall be spent on the development of merged tribal areas. She said the common man living in the tribal areas, who "stands together with the Army and kisses our flag" will be made a shareholder in all developmental efforts in the region. She also revealed that funds that would have been allotted for strengthening the defence institutions would now be spent on underdeveloped areas of Balochistan. Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan Sunday vehemently rejected media reports of failure in achieving key economic targets, dubbing them contrary to facts. Speaking at a news conference along with Special Assistant to the PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, who heads the Asset Recovery Unit, she said the prime minister would present facts before the media. She said the government’s topmost priority was to present a people-friendly budget. "The number one priority is to have a sustainable economy to be retained with a consistent, untiring effort and the salient features of the budget will be articulated when the Economic Survey Report will be officially made public, a day before the budget,” she pointed out. Dr. Awan said the budget would represent the PTI’s long-term road map and way forward and address the objectives for the next five years, reflecting the PTI manifesto. Calling PML-N leader MNA Rana Sanaullah as her brother from another mother, she made a mention of the legal notice, she had served on him, regretting the kind of language he used against her, not knowing the integrity of as to who was ‘baji’ and what was her status for a brother. Dr. Awan said, "I have a brother. He is from another mother: Rana Sanaullah. It seems he is unaware of the stature and respect accorded to the relation that is a 'baji'” . This term has been used by the PML-N leader for her, which in English means elder sister. She explained having no choice but to also include a media organisation as a respondent because the notice requires that details be provided of what was said and where. "We are politicians. We may have differences when it comes to our viewpoints and it is a democratic right we enjoy, but to attack one's person and when you level such vulgar allegations then to exercise one's right to seek relief and pursue justice under the law is also everyone's right which I have [made use of and] shared with you in documented form," she added. Shahzad Akbar said there was no possibility in extension in the date of amnesty scheme after June 30; therefore, people should avail themselves of the opportunity and declare their assets. He pointed out that the Financial Monitoring Unit had signed a memorandum of understanding with Britain’s Financial Intelligence Unit under which the two countries would exchange information on money laundering about their respective citizens besides sharing banking data as well. Shahzad Akbar believed this would help the investigative institutions to trace financial frauds. He said the action so far against money launderers and other corrupt elements was quite satisfactory and there was a kind of pause in respect of the Amnesty Scheme but it would be swift, once the deadline was over. He lamented that Shehbaz Sharif’s son Salman Shahbaz, who was in London, would have to give answers with regard to his assets and benami accounts in the name of vendors and others. He noted during the ten-year tenure of his father as chief minister of Punjab, there had been 8500 per cent increase in his assets.

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