Bilawal derides govt over Finance Bill, inflation

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—Says ‘PTI-IMF budget’ will create difficulties for poor citizens

—Finds current govt ‘confused’ over situation of economy

By Asghar Ali Mubarak

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari censured the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government on Wednesday over the mini-budget that proposed ending tax exemptions on various goods to generate over Rs350 billion in taxes.

Speaking during a session of the National Assembly, the PPP MNA said the mini-budget was proof that the government was confused about the economy. “We had said it from the very first day that economic confusion was akin to the death of economy,” he said.

The PTI government created hardships for people by initially saying that it wouldn’t go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Bilawal said, adding that when they were forced to seek IMF’s help they struck a poor deal. “We said it then that the ‘PTI-IMF’ budget would create difficulties for the poor segments of the society,” he added.

The PPP chief recalled that PML-N President and National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif had proposed a ‘charter for economy’ in 2019 and a similar proposal was floated by former president Asif Ali Zardari as well, but the government didn’t listen. “You ignored these suggestions and made unilateral decisions and now the nation can see the results,” the PPP chairperson added.

“Had you listened to Shehbaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari this would have benefitted you as you’d be representing Pakistan, not just a government or a political party,” Bilawal added. “But you chose to sacrifice common people at the altar of your ego,” he added.

Bilawal said that never in the history of Pakistan had there been so many negative economic indicators. “When we were fighting a war, when the country split into two, or when it was facing sanctions, the economic growth never hit a negative 0.4,” he said.

“The PTI has broken all records,” Bilawal remarked. “Naya Pakistan means unemployment, poverty, and inflation,” he said, adding that this was not “tabdeeli” (change) but “tabahi” (destruction).

He said the government had promised people economic development and no taxes, but it is proposing a “tsunami of taxes in January”. This budget will further result in unemployment and inflation, he said, adding that slashing the development budget by Rs250 billion will have an impact on every level.

He said, “A government voted into power by the public takes them into consideration before making such decisions, but those who come to power with others’ help do not listen to people, but the IMF.”

According to Bilawal, the PTI will not be able to ask for votes amid such a poor show. “The people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have given you the first glimpse,” he said, referring to PTI’s defeat in the K-P local body polls.

The increase in petroleum prices as a result of the mini-budget will increase inflation, the PPP chief said, adding that taxes on 1,000cc vehicles were being increased by 100pc. “Vehicles, petrol, and cycles – everything has been made expensive,” he said, adding that the government is also proposing taxes on laptops and mobile internet.

“Shehbaz Sharif [as Punjab CM] used to distribute laptops among students, but instead of doing that you have imposed taxes on them,” he added. Bilawal said the government imposed further taxes on electronics being made in Pakistan. He said the government was committing “economic murder” of farmers; along with the mini-budget, the price of fertilisers has also increased.

Pakistan was an agricultural economy but the government ruined the national economy through its successive budgets, he added. “We had heard of enmity towards people and the poor, but this government has stooped down to enmity towards the country,” he added.