ISLAMABAD: The lower house of parliament adopted on Saturday 75 out of 175 demands for grants worth Rs1.226 trillion in a session in which the finance minister prescribed a strange panacea for the unbridled inflation triggering a media uproar.
The National Assembly did not discuss cut motions moved by opposition lawmakers and Deputy Speaker Javed Abbasi, who was officiating the session, announced that these would be discussed on June 20.
In the beginning of the session, the budget debate was suspended for at least 45 minutes on Saturday after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s chief whip Dr Shireen Mazari pointed to lack of quorum.
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Opposition lawmakers criticised some allocations under the head of ‘Charged Expenditure’ calling them unnecessary. Among these the most criticised was the allocation for the Presidency which several MPs said was a ‘waste of resources’, especially while the government claims it is adopting austerity measures. Demands for grants that were adopted related to the ministry of defence and defence productions, industries, commerce, communications, Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) among others.
On the matter of ‘Charged Expenditures’, Dar said that over the past three years, the fiscal deficit had been brought down from 8.8% to 4.3% of GDP. He sought to exonerate the PML-N government of piling foreign debts, saying that since 1947 successive governments had acquired loans.
“National debts stood at Rs3,000 billion until June 30, 1999, but they jumped to Rs5,800 billion during the [Pervez] Musharraf regime and surged to Rs14,318 billion during the last tenure of the Pakistan Peoples Party,” he said.
To a point raised by PPP’s Shazia Marri about interest, the minister said: “When you take a loan, you have to pay the mark-up.”
Answering criticism on soaring prices of pulses, the finance minister came up with a strange advice. “If pulses are expensive, then people should eat chicken which is Rs200 per kilo because the government has waived all taxes and duties on poultry products,” he said.
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He said that the Pakistan Microfinance Investment Company would be made operational in July to cater to the demand of 25 million people.
Censuring the opposition vis-a-vis the Pananmagate scandal, Dar said he would quit his office if allegations regarding owning offshore accounts or firms were established against him.
There are some people in the house who say who have assets abroad. “I challenge them to prove that I’ve a single penny in accounts abroad and I’ll quit politics forever,” he said, adding that in the past he chose not to respond to such allegations for the sake of political reconciliation.
“Enough is enough. Now if anyone levels wild allegations, I’ll take him to court,” he said. “And I am doing that.”
He was referring to PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s claim that two sons of the finance minister owned property in the UAE. Dar’s son Ali Mustafa Dar filed a Rs 5 billion defamation suit against Imran in a district court in Islamabad on May 27.
Earlier, Shazia Marri and Awami Muslim League’s Sheikh Rashid criticised the allocations for the Presidency and stated it was waste of funding as “nobody knows what our president does.”
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The finance minister, however, defended the allocations. “The president represents the country at international forums and the government has to allocate funds for the Presidency,” he added. “The amount is much lower than that spent on the Presidency by previous governments.”
About Rashid’s comment on secret funds, Dar said that soon after coming to power, the government had stopped secret funds to 32 of total 34 institutions. “Only the ISI and IB are provided secret funds, but there is an audit mechanism for these funds,” he said.
Courtesy : Express Tribune