FM Asad Umar presents finance bill in NA

ISLAMABAD: Minister of Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Asad Umer delivering Finance Supplementary Bill in National Assembly.

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Asad Umar presented the Finance Supplementary Second Amendment bill 2019 in the National Assembly.

Umar began by stating that this was not a mini-budget being presented but rather a set of economic reforms. The finance minister asked what the previous government had left behind for the people of Pakistan. 

“Two years ago, an economic situation began to develop when all economic experts started to say that danger bells are ringing. But instead, those in power did not pay heed, they thought the people were ignorant, and instead they conspired to ‘buy’ an election.”

Umar added that the deficit grew to Rs900 billion, asking who would fill this gap. “How will this gap be filled? Will it come from their Swiss accounts? No. That money is filled with money paid by the citizens.” 

According to the finance minister, there were record losses in Steel Mills, Railways, and other institutions, and the opposition had left the country in debt of up to Rs2,500 to Rs3,000 billion. 

The minister brought attention to the dangerously low level of exports. “Today exports are at 40 percent. Of the entire national output, exports were 14 percent and now they are just 7 percent of the economy.” 

Umar said that, by the time of the next general elections, the PTI government would not need to ‘buy’ any elections because of their performance in improving the economy.  He claimed that by 2022, the country’s growth rate will be at its highest and current account and fiscal deficits at their lowest in 15 years.

Salient features

  • Tax on agricultural loans to be reduced from 39% to 20%
  • To provide low-income housing, Rs5 billion revolving fund for interest-free loans (qarz-i-husna) to be introduced. 
  • Withholding tax for filers on banking transactions will be eliminated to encourage the culture of paying taxes.
  • Non-filers will be able to purchase small and mid-size cars up to 1300CC, but the tax would be increased.
  • Tax has been decreased to Rs5000 for small wedding halls up to 500 square feet.  
  • Pilot scheme to be introduced in Islamabad to facilitate traders in filing and paying taxes.
  • Duty on import of newsprint eliminated. 
  • In the next five years, those working to manufacture renewable energy products will be exempt from sales tax and customs duty. Investment in solar panels, wind turbines exempt from duties and taxation for five years.
  • No tax on bids for sports franchises until profitability. 
  • From July 1 super tax will be eliminated for non-banking companies. 
  • Continuation of 1pc per annum reduction in corporate income tax. 
  • Withholding tax on trading in the stock exchange to be removed. 
  • Tax will be increased for vehicles over 1800CC 
  • Tax for low priced phones will be decreased, will remain the same for expensive phones.   
  • Scheme to be introduced of promissory notes for exporters. Any exporter will be able to take loans from banks on these notes. 
  • Duty on diesel engines for agricultural purposes decreased to five per cent. 
  • No Gas Infrastructure Development Cess on fertiliser production

Debate on Sahiwal killings

Prior to the mini-budget presentation, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif said a judicial commission had been announced the same night as the Model Town incident. Sharif was responding to the PTI government comparing the PML-N government’s handling of the Model Town incident to the killings in Sahiwal. 

“The chief minister of Punjab cannot even respond to the nation’s call without the prime minister’s permission,” said Sharif, adding that the chief minister would not act without seeking permission on Whatsapp from the prime minister.  

The PML-N president also called for the resignation of the prime minister followed by that of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. 

Responding to Sharif, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the government had not only condemned the Sahiwal incident, but the prime minister had issued directives to the chief minister Punjab. 

“What was said about the elected chief minister was not appropriate,” Qureshi asserted.    

Qureshi said the prime minister directed that a report on Sahiwal should be presented within 72 hours. “The JIT within the timeframe came to the conclusion that the Khalil family was innocent.” 

“Unlike the past governments, this government did not try to suppress the facts,” the minister added.  

According to Qureshi the facts will be presented before the Parliament and people and those responsible will be held accountable.  

The foreign minister clarified that the JIT had sought for additional time to probe Zeeshan who was the driver of the vehicle, not the Khalil family.

Qureshi requested that this incident should not be used for political point scoring.  

PML-N completely rejects mini-budget

PML-N has completely rejected the mini-budget, introduced by the government today, calling it a ‘budget made by the rich for the rich’.

“Today is Eid day for tax evaders and a day of mourning for poor,” said the party.

“Black and undocumented economy has been given a free pass… Tax evaders have been given relief and Aleema Baji (Imran Khan’s elder sister) is a thief,” said the PML-N spokesperson.