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Budget 2020-21 sails through NA

NA rejects amendments put forward by opposition; government also shatters hopes of raising salaries of employees

By Muhammad Anis
June 30, 2020

Budget 2020-21 sails through NA

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly (NA) on Monday passed the Finance Bill 2020 with a total outlay of Rs7,294.9 billion amid sloganeering and protest from the opposition giving legal effect to the budgetary proposals for next fiscal year.

The amendments proposed by the opposition in the Finance Bill, 2020 were rejected by the House. The government also shattered hopes of the government employees regarding raise in salaries and pensions and in process rejected amendments proposed by the opposition members.

The House erupted with noisy response from the opposition benches and sloganeering from the treasury members when government received 160 against 119 opposition votes during passage of clause 9 of the bill.

The Speaker directed for head counts after the opposition challenged approval of clause 9 with majority voice. The protesting members who were carrying placards and were raising slogans of ‘Na Manzoor’, also staged token walkout from the Houseas soon as Minister for Communication Murad Saeed stood in his seat to respond to speeches of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and PML-N parliamentary leader Khawaja Asif before passage of the bill.

They, however, returned to the proceedings when Murad Saeed completed his speech. “I can see deepening love between the PML-N and PPP,” Murad Saeed while pointing to opposition members who started their protest when he was given the floor.

Murad Saeed said as to how the opposition members could challenge the prime minister when they could not face his soldier. Prime Minister Imran Khan joined proceedings when the House began clause wise approval of the Finance Bill. Two out of four members of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal supported the opposition members in the process.

Seeing relaxation in SOPs and maximum members present in the House, the PML-N parliamentary leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif said it should be ensured that no COVID-19 positive parliamentarian attends proceedings. “According to our information, some COVID-19 positive members have also been brought in the House,” Asif said.

However, no members tested positive for COVID-19 have been invited to attend proceedings on the day when the budget will be approved.

Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, who moved the finance bill for approval, regretted attitude of the opposition parties in the National Assembly when the House was to approve the federal budget. “We were expected the opposition members will not indulge in point scoring but they are launching personal attacks,” he said.

He said that accountability was riding on nerves of the opposition members. “We ousted mafia and bring forward young leadership through the general elections,” he said.

He said the government has presented a tax-free budget and it envisages relief measures not only for the construction sector but also for promotion of mobile phone manufacturing and electric vehicles.

He said duties and taxes on import of sixteen hundred raw materials have been brought to zero. He said it is first time that the annual development plan carries the biggest allocations for Balochistan and Sindh.

The minister clarified that the government has not increased the sales tax or petroleum development levy on petroleum products. The minister pointed out that the prices of petroleum products have been increased keeping in view the upward trend in the international oil market. He said mafias in oil, sugar and flour will be brought to justice.

The PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said the government was deceiving the people with budgetary figures apprehending that mini-budgets would also be announced. He said the government did not even have the finance minister who could have announced the federal budget on floor of the House. Ahsan Iqbal alleged the government is putting country’s security at risk by playing havoc with the national economy.

As per the budget documents, gross revenue receipts have been estimated at Rs6,573 billion. The FBR tax collection target has been set at Rs4,963 billion while the non-tax revenue is estimated to be about Rs1,610 billion. The net capital receipts have been estimated at Rs1463.2 billion which are 75.93 percent higher than the outgoing fiscal year.

External receipts for the next year are estimated at Rs2222.9 billion. The development expenditure outside PSDP has been estimated at Rs70 billion in the budget. The total federal expenditure are estimated at Rs7,137 billion with a budget deficit of Rs3,437 billion, which is seven percent of the GDP.

The size of Public Sector Development Programme for 2020-21 is Rs1,324 billion. Out of this, Rs676 billion have been allocated to provinces. The government has formulated a special development programme worth Rs70 billion to offset the negative impact of coronavirus pandemic and other calamities and improve the living standard of people while Rs10 billion have been earmarked to provide relief to the agriculture sector and fight the crop munching locusts.

Besides, the government reserved Rs69 billion for water related projects. Allocations for Ehsaas Programme have also been enhanced to protect the vulnerable groups of the society. Responding to the point of PML-N parliamentary leader Khawaja Asif, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said no COVID-19 positive member has been invited to attend the proceedings.

He said that 40 hours were fixed for debate on the budgetary proposals but the members held discussion more than the allotted time. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the people of Pakistan have given mandate to Prime Minister Imran Khan and he will not resign adding that Imran Khan enjoys the confidence of the House and as to why he should resign.

The foreign minister said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf would not make any compromise on its ideology. “The PTI and its allies stand by the ideology of Imran Khan,” he said. Responding to the points of PML-N leader Khawaja Asif regarding PIA, Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan said the mandate of present government is to clean the mess left by the previous governments. He regretted that the previous governments destroyed the institutions in the name of democracy.

The minister said it was on the directions of the Supreme Court that the data of PIA employees inducted over the last ten years was scrutinised. He said the inquiry proved political appointments were made in the national flag carrier in complete violation of merit. He said action will be taken against fake degree holders.

Minister for Communications Murad Saeed said Pakistan will move forward on the path of development under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He rejected the remarks made by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari against the coronavirus strategy of the government. He said the European countries are now also adopting smart lockdown policy.

The minister said the present government gave the historic Ehsaas Programme and enhanced its allocations to over two hundred billion rupees. He said our Sehat Insaf card scheme is providing free of cost medical treatment to the people.