Treasury senators back federal budget as opposition demands relief measures

ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Monday started the debate on a motion to make recommendations to the National Assembly on the Finance Bill, 2020 with the members from treasury benches backing it and the opposition calling for more relief measures.

Taking part in the debate, Leader of the House Dr Shahzad Waseem said the government would appreciate the collective wisdom of the august House and hoped for positive suggestions form the members for incorporation in the finance bill.

He said the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan would take all decisions in the larger interest of the people and the country.

Dr Shahzad said the budget documents had a complete roadmap for future progress and reflected the vision of leadership. It revolved around three principles, including empathy/compassion, sacrifices and reforms, he maintained.

He said the government had announced a stimulus package of Rs 1,200 billion for the poor segments of the society, and small businesses. An amount of Rs 150 billion was disbursed among the poor families and Rs 200 billion among the daily-wagers and labourers.

The utility bills’ payment was deferred for three months and Rs 100 billion was specified for the small business sector, he added.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan himself gave the sacrifice and slashed the allocations for the PM House by Rs 180 million.

He said the reforms process had been expedited in all the public sector enterprises to make them profitable.It was first time in the country’s history that the sugar scandal report was made public, he added.

Dr Shahzad said the past rulers had posted their blue-eyed officials in various institutions to protect their personal business.

He said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government had completed some 149 projects till June under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), while Rs 650 billion was allocated in the budget for the PSDP 2020-21for launching various development projects in all the provinces which would help create job opportunities.

Regarding health issues, he said it was the basic responsibility of the provinces to strengthen health facilities in their respective jurisdictions as health had already been devolved to them under the 18th Amendment. However, the Federal Government fully supported the provincial governments in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and provided them all the required equipment.

He said during the critical situation, the chain supply across the Pakistan remained stable. The government announced an agriculture package worth Rs 100 billion, besides allocating hefty amount for agriculture emergency programme, he added. Similarly, Rs 10 billion was earmarked for locust control.

Dr Shahzad said as the role of information technology was very important in the current era, the government allocated huge amount for IT related projects to make Pakistan digitized and promote knowledge economy for creating more jobs.

Similarly, steps were being taken for ease of doing business in the country, he added.

Regarding the COVID-19, Shahzad Waseem said the government took consistent and timely decisions to cope with the pandemic despite limited resources. Continuous monitoring and evaluation of situation was being carried out, he added.

He said the world economies have also shrunk due to COVID-19 and the gross domestic product of developed countries, including United Kingdom, Spain and Italy had also decreased while around 20 million people became jobless in the United States.

He said the PTI government had inherited a fragile economy with a loan of Rs 30,000 billion and the country on the brink of default. It paid special attention to the economy and managed to reduce the current account deficit from $ 20 billion to $ 3 billion, he added.

The incumbent government, he said, also repaid loans of Rs 5,000 billion, which were acquired by the past regimes. The import bill was reduced while exports were increased in the short time,

Similarly, he said, the revenue collection witnessed record 17 per cent increase. The international rating institutions, including Moody’s and Bloomberg declared Pakistan ratings better.

He said Pakistan was in a position to take off but unfortunately a new crisis in the shape of COVID-19 emerged.

Earlier, Sherry Rehman of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) criticized the budget saying there should be five per cent allocation of total GDP for the health sector instead of 1.2 per cent in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

She claimed that various direct and indirect taxes were imposed in the budget and the government had already missed its revenue collection target and obtained loans during the past 18 months.