House approves a number of amendments including the one to increase the salaries and perks of parliamentarians
86 out of 139 amendments proposed by the Senate also approved; Amendments proposed by opposition members rejected through vote
112 supplementary grants for the outgoing year amounting to Rs 260.875 billion also approved
The National Assembly on Wednesday passed the Finance Bill 2016-17, with certain amendments, providing legal cover to the budgetary proposals for the upcoming financial year with a total outlay of over Rs 4.8 trillion.
Following a 15-day discussion, the bill moved by Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar was passed by the Lower House with a majority in a clause-by-clause reading on Wednesday.
The opposition members presented certain amendments to the financial bill which were rejected with the majority of votes. Those who proposed amended included Dr Nafeesa Shah, Dr Arif Alvi, Sahibzada Yaqub, Ayesha Sayed, Dr Mehreen Razzaq, Naveed Qamar, Dr Azra Fazal and others.
Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid on behalf of Minister for Finance Mohammad Ishaq Dar moved amendments proposed to the finance bill by the treasury benches in the House.
An amendment was also inserted in the finance bill to revise salaries of parliamentarians including Speaker, Deputy Speaker NA and Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Senate through gazette notifications. As many as 86 out of 139 recommendations forwarded by the Senate for incorporation in the Finance Bill 2016-17 were approved by the House which is acceptance of 62 per cent of proposals.
The Bill 2016-17 will take effect from July 1 this year after President Mamnoon Hussain signs it.
Apart from passing the budget, the lower house of the parliament also approved 112 supplementary grants worth Rs 260.875 billion for the outgoing Fiscal Year 2015-2016.
It is pertinent to mention here that the PML-N government, on June 3, had presented the budget in the parliament with total outlay of Rs 4.894 trillion, 10 per cent higher than the previous budget of 2015-16.
According to the budget document, the resources availability during 2016-17 were estimated at Rs 4,442.0 billion against Rs 4,168.3 billion in the budget of 2015-16.
The net revenue receipt for 2016-17 had been estimated at Rs 2,779.7 billion indicating an increase of 12.8 per cent over the budget estimates of 2015-16. The budget is focused on development of agriculture and trade to promote growth and aims to develop energy sector besides maintaining fiscal discipline and reducing non-development expenditure.
Addressing the House, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that National Finance Commission Award has no direct relevance with the budget, saying that there has been progress to complete the NFC award as soon as possible.
He said that the provinces are not fulfilling their responsibility to cover the subjects that were devolved to them according to 18th amendment which is why the federation has to intervene.
Withholding taxes could not be withdrawn, Dar said, and rejected the impression that the ratio of direct taxes has reached 85 per cent and clarified that direct taxation has increased from 38 per cent to 42.4 per cent.
The finance minister said sharing prosperity is the common narrative of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and rejected all the misleading conceptions some quarters are propagating in this regard.
He said that it is their luck to have launched such projects, which will bring the country closer to many Central Asian countries adding that Pakistan cannot stop China from making investments in any other country.
He said that there is dire need that we make the CPEC successful. He said the decisions taken in All Parties Conference regarding the execution of the CPEC projects will be implemented. He said that the FBR is renegotiating Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China.
He said that the government has been trying to get the membership of Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which will help in getting access to information regarding Pakistanis’ account in Switzerland.
“We are in the final stages of getting the membership,” he said adding that the OECD authorities have informed the government that when the finance bill is approved, the OECD will be in better position to offer the membership. He said that the government accommodated majority of the Senate recommendations in the finance bill and the proposals by the National Assembly were also considered.
Earlier opposing the finance bill, Dr Nefeesa Shah of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) alleged that encroachment was being made on tax collection of provinces.
She said the federation should make efforts to ensure effectiveness in the tax collection. However, she said the federation is encroaching on the sales tax collection of the provinces.
She said the Sindh government has been achieving revenue targets for the last three years and has exceeded it this year.
She said that tax amnesty scheme was introduced to include around 400,000 new people into the tax net but only 10,000 people could be attracted.
She said that concession was given to China in the finance bill and details of agreement signed with China should be shared. She said they should be informed about how they country will benefit from the free trade agreement signed with China, Malaysia and Indonesia etc.
She said there was a dire need to protect our industry and the agriculture sector. She said that they should also be informed about the LNG and coal based power projects. Chinese banks are providing commercial loans to these power projects which will generate expensive electricity resulting in accumulation of circular debt.
Dr Arif Alvi of PTI said the FBR system should be upgraded to broaden direct tax net in the country.
He said that the FBR was not working effectively due to imposition of indirect taxes. Indirect taxation has made job of FBR easy as no efforts was being made to collect revenue, he added. He said Switzerland made International Asset Recovery Act in 2010 to return plundered or illegal money stashed in their banks.
Earlier it was being said that Pakistanis have over $200 billion in Swiss Banks, he said and added that no step was taken to return back that amount.
Alvi said most of the black money is being invested in the real estate industry adding that properties worth $7.5 billion were purchased in Dubai during last three years. He claimed the amount was illegally transferred to Dubai for purchasing the properties. If these loopholes were plugged, it would help increase investment opportunities in the country, he said.
Abdul Wasim Khan of MQM said that the indirect tax net is being widened rather than direct tax one. He said that the withholding tax should be abolished besides imposing direct tax on the elite class.
He said tax amnesty scheme was launched to bring more people into the tax net but very few people ended up doing that. He said the salaried class is paying more in taxes than the elite and the rich.
He said the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) was contributing tax to the national exchequer. Once considered the backbone of the industry, the PSM has now been shut down, he added.