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June 20, 2019

IMF-dictated budget unacceptable: Shahbaz

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June 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif on Wednesday, while asking the government to take back anti-people and IMF-dictated federal budget, maintained that the opposition parties would strongly oppose the passage of the budget proposals in present form even if whole the opposition is placed behind the bars.

Delivering his opening speech in the budget debate, the opposition leader also threatened that the opposition would also not allow functioning of the government if it does not withdraw the anti-people budget. “We reject the budget proposals altogether and ask the government to present the budget as per aspirations and wishes of the masses,” Shahbaz Sharif said.

He said the federal budget had made people from all classes and segments of society to cry and it amounted to economic murder of the people. Overall, the proceedings of the House remained peaceful during the speech of the opposition leader which lasted for nearly three hours with interruption from federal minister Dr Shireen Mazari and other government members on a few occasions. The speaker directed the government members to refrain from cross talk during the speech.

The opposition leader said what had been happening in the National Assembly was against the dignity of the House. “This is a democratic institution and it must be run the same way and we are also ready to cooperate for its smooth functioning,” he said.

Forwarding some demands of the opposition in the budget, the opposition leader asked the government to fix the minimum monthly wage at Rs20,000 per month, revise electricity and gas tariffs to level as on May 31, 2018, increase salary of government employees upto BPS-16 by 50 percent, withdraw taxes on edible oil and ghee, restore educational stipends of youth, revert to zero-rated export industry regime and restore free medical treatment and provision of free medicines at government hospitals.

Shahbaz pointed out that the budget proposals had exposed day-dreaming of the prime minister and his tall claims of giving unprecedented relief to the masses while standing on containers. “But to the contrary, the budget misses basic things including GDP growth rate, control on price hike, incentives for the export sector because it is not budget of Pakistan rather it is budget of the IMF,” he said.

Shahbaz said the opposition was ready to give one-time indemnity to Prime Minister Imran Khan if he on floor of the House he eats his words and takes back his tall claims. “We are ready to condone his false claims only when his government brings about amendments in the budget,” he said.

The opposition leader said the prime minister had himself stated that he would commit suicide instead of approaching the IMF. “I pray for him that he should not commit suicide but the budgetary measures are suicidal for the people,” he said.

Shahbaz said the budget prepared by the IMF people was brutal and amounted to slaughter of the masses. “Those who prepared the budget have only one thumb rule that cut is imposed on development budget and premium rate of banks is increased,” he said.

He warned that the national economy would land in intensive care unit (ICU) due to high rate of interest of banks. Quoting Prime Minister Imran Khan when he was in the opposition, the PML-N president said that Imran Khan also made tall claims of making revenue collection to the tune of Rs8,000 billion during the first fiscal year, but his government has not been able to collect even Rs,4000 billion. He said now the government has set revenue collection target of Rs5,500 billion for the fiscal year 2019-2020 which include 70 percent as indirect taxes. “From whom he will collect taxes when the growth rate of industry is going down,” he said.

The opposition leader said Imran Khan before assuming power had said that only that government fails to collect taxes whose prime minister is a thief. “Now the prime minister himself should decide for himself as to what he should be called,” he said.

Shahbaz said the leadership of PTI has been making tall claims of promoting social sector, but to the contrary, it imposed cut on budget for education and health sectors by Rs20 billion and Rs2 billion. “Instead of increasing budget in the social sector, the PTI government doled out Rs20 billion to gamblers in the name of bolstering up the stock exchange which collapsed the next day,” he said.

The opposition leader said as the condition of economy was set to go down further, the government would now try to find a way to escape, but the opposition would not allow it to do the same. “We will not allow them to escape and will hold them accountable for their misdeeds,” he said.

Coming harsh on the PTI leadership for accusing the PML-N government of receiving unprecedented loans, the opposition leader said that form 2013 to 2018, then government secured Rs10,600 billion loans, whereas the incumbent government in the last 10 months had taken Rs5,000 billion loans, whereas no significant mega project was launched during the same period.

“They have spent Rs5,000 billion only to place nameplates on projects initiated by us, whereas our government led by Nawaz Sharif initiated and completed power generation projects, LNG projects, Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system, roads projects and many other plans,” he said.

Shahbaz said he wanted to give gold medal to the government of PTI for placing nameplates on projects which were started by the PML-N government.

Ridiculing the claim of the prime minister of constructing five million houses in five years, the opposition leader said not even a single penny had been allocated for the project in the next year’s budget, while not even a single brick was placed to kick start the project,” he said.

The opposition leader also called the BRT project of Peshawar as the biggest robbery in the transport which started from estimated cost of Rs38 billion and now is touching cost of Rs100 billion. “The chief minister’s inspection committee itself had exposed many blunders and corruption in the project,” he said.

He said he wanted to give a suggestion to Imran Khan through the chair that he should stop making tall claims and indulging in blame game and start work progress. Shahbaz again talked about connivance between the NAB and the incumbent government while also referring to change of DG NAB of KP twice. He repeated demand of issuance of production orders of Asif Ali Zardari, Khawaja Saad Rafique and other detained MNAs so that they could represent their voters in the House.

At the outset of the proceedings, the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also demanded of the chair to issue production orders of his father and other detained MNAs.

Minister for Power Omer Ayub said in response to Shahbaz Sharif’s speech that those who have destroyed the economy of the country are now shedding crocodile tears.

The minister said the incumbent government of the PTI would achieve revenue collection target of Rs5,500 billion during the fiscal year 2019-2020. He said the opposition leader in his speech did nothing, but spread disappointment. The minister said that Shahbaz detonated the suicide jacket which he was wearing and exposed deeds of his own government.

He said the PPP and the PML-N in their 10-year rule indebted the country by over Rs24,000 billion, while the PTI government took loans of Rs3,000 billion this year to pay interest on loans taken in the past.

He said the civilian government and the armed forces have cut their expenditures in the budget to deal with the current economic situation, while Rs184 billion has been earmarked in the budget for the development of tribal districts.

Regarding the power sector, Omer Ayub said the government has brought improvement in the electricity transmission system as a result of which they ensured loadshedding-free Ramazan during Sehr and Iftar timings. He said the government has not increased power tariff for the consumers using up to 300 units and instead they have been given subsidy. Voicing concerns over increase in circular debt in the previous regime, he said the government will bring circular debt to zero by the end of next year.

He said the previous government installed coal power plants at wrong points which affected the agriculture sector. Regarding petroleum sector, Omer Ayub said Prime Minister Imran Khan will perform the ground-breaking of oil refinery at Khalifa point by the end of this year. Talking about expenses on the Prime Minister House, he said the premier is bearing all expenses on maintenance, repair and payment of utility bills and repair of road leading to his residence from his own pocket.

Prior to start of the National Assembly session, the Speaker Asad Qaiser chaired a meeting of senior leaders from PPP and PML-N and it was decided to run proceedings smoothly and hearing each other's speeches with patience.

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