Budget debate not MPs’ cup of tea

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-Opposition slams govt over massive foreign loans, unachieved targets of previous years

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Friday witnessed lack of interest from lawmakers in the budget debate as only a few members from both sides of the aisle attended the session and no significant contribution was made from either side to help improve the allocations.

Resuming debate on the budget at Parliament, the lawmakers identified different areas where they suggested the government to focus and lead the country towards progress and development.

Alhaj Shah Jee Gul Afridi, while highlighting the importance of enhancing trade among regional countries, stressed the need for paying attention towards transport sector to tap its full potential.

He said that since Pakistan was a member of Convention on International Transport of Goods, TIR, it should take full advantage of it and promote its transport sector, adding that if Chinese transport could operate in Pakistan why can’t Pakistani transport operate in China.

He said that China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) also provides an opportunity to promote transport sector, which he said was paying taxes of Rs500-Rs600 billion annually. He demanded policy intervention to tap the full potential of this sector and highlighted the need for devising long-term policies instead of focusing on short-term policies to take the country forward.

On the occasion, Azra Fazal Pechuho said that the debt of the country has inflated and the government has failed to give any paradigm to promote growth and lead the country towards development.

She also drew the attention of the government towards Rs400 billion sales tax returns which it had to pay to business community.

Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho said the budget had no provision to pay huge circular debt. She said the government should not come in ithe nfluence of mafia and property value tax should be increased to get more revenues.

She was of the views that the tax amnesty scheme would not help bridge trade deficit. She also called for preparing a concrete plan to reduce population growth in the country.

Participating in the budget debate, Sahibzada Tariqullah stressed the need for collecting tax from the wealthiest people of the country, which he said would contribute substantially in enhancing the revenues.

He said that the government at one side had announced tax-free budget but at the same time provided many exemptions, questioning how it was going to meet the collection target of Rs4436 billion, set for the current fiscal year.

He said that only 0.9 percent of country’s total population was paying tax, whereas the ratio was much higher even in our neighboring countries.

Sahibzada also lamented that as many as 109 schemes, which were included in Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) during previous years, were not included in the next PSDP.

He said that the government was advised to announce budget only for four months and let the upcoming government to present budget for the whole fiscal year, which was its right.

He said that though the government has presented its 6th budget, but unfortunately it was presented by an unelected representative.

Chaudhary Khadim Hussain while taking part in the debate said PML-N government completed various development projects in the country. He said his party was neither against judiciary nor armed force.

Amjad Ali Khan said the government has presented its last budget, however, pointed out the targets set in previous budgets were not achieved. The government has obtained massive foreign loan and people were being exploited financially, he added.

Shahida Akhtar Ali said that 60 percent of the country’s population was youth which could prove productive for the country if an appropriate policy was devised, however, lamented that no proper strategy was given in the current budget to tap this potential.

She also highlighted the importance of devising a comprehensive policy to address the issue of unemployment. She said that the imports of the country were more than double of exports, so special attention was required to promote exports. She also highlighted the issue of clean drinking water.

Arbab Amir Ayub while participating in the debate claimed that no mega fund was provided by the government for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Waseem Hussain while participating in the budget said that the focus of budget should be on welfare of people, however, the budget presented by the government was depicting a different picture.

He said there were no university and medical college in Hyderabad despite population of millions of people. He called for setting up university and medical college in Hyderabad. He also called for establishing more provinces on basis of administrative units in the country.