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ISLAMABAD: The opposition political parties on Friday rejected federal budget for 2020-2021, saying "there is nothing for the masses in the budget at a time when the country is facing Covid-19 pandemic" as the government has wasted a huge opportunity to change priorities such as diverting resources to health as percentage of the GDP.

The Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Shehbaz Sharif, said that the budget would lead to more inflation and unemployment as the government had tried to hide its incompetence behind blames on the previous government and the new coronavirus.

"Inflation, unemployment and degradation of businesses has broken all records under this government, and this budget is a recipe for disaster as it will further worsen the economic state of the country," he added.

He said that Rs1.7 trillion tax deficit is the hallmark of this government's performance, adding, for the first time in 68 years, the country's GDP is in negative territory after inheriting 5.8pc GDP growth rate from the PML-N government. He predicted that a 10 percent revenue deficit will break all records.

"Never in the history of this country has this figure been in double digits but the incompetence of the PTI has achieved [this]."

He said that this is the first government, which missed all targets of tax revenue, government expenditure, fiscal deficit and the GDP, adding that hiding behind the coronavirus is not going to do any good.

Shehbaz said it is absolutely brutal not to increase salaries and pensions on IMF pressure.

He regretted how the government froze the CPEC in its tracks, ignored Balochistan and slashed the development budget drastically.

He warned that the nation must get ready for a series of mini-budgets.

He questioned as to where is the promised increase in exports, progress in agriculture and industry, and people-friendly budget measures.

"This budget is a recipe to benefit and pay the PTI's financers and opportunists. How can anyone trust the number given out by this government, when they have confessed that they gave faulty figures and statistics last year," he said.

The PPP's parliamentary leader in Senate, Sherry Rehman, said the budget is a rolling accounting exercise led by the IMF, adding in four months, they will be rolling the numbers again, while firing people from jobs.

"The data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) shows that the year-on-year inflation in January 2019 was 5.6 percent, while by January 2020, the percentage had spiked to 14.6 percent. It is a shocking record of the highest inflation surge in the world. This happened way before the coronavirus pandemic hit us," she regretted.

According to Sherry, total debt and liabilities of the country rose by Rs2.597 trillion in the period running from July 2019 to March 2020, adding the total is now at 102.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

"The PTI government during the first 13 months of its tenure has added almost 35 percent of the total debt that Pakistan had accumulated in the previous 71 years of its independence," she added.

Commenting on the disastrous revenue collection, she said, "The FBR management is trying to justify its poor performance by hiding behind the Covid-19 situation. In the pre-Covid-19 situation, the FBR had sustained a shortfall of Rs693 billion. In April, the FBR provisionally collected Rs242.5 billion in taxes, down by Rs48 billion or 16.5 percent when compared with the collection in the same month of last year. This low revenue collection will have serious implications for the country's debt."

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam's Maulana Asad Mehmood said that the government had failed to achieve its targets.

This government has plunged the GDP to 0.4 percent, he said, adding there is a deficit of about Rs900 billion in taxes that were to be collected.

He claimed that opposition lawmakers were not provided with copies of the budget, adding the government presented three budgets in a year and imposed new taxes on the masses.

Speaking at a presser after the budget, Khawaja Muhammad Asif along with Rana Sanullah said that the government took refuge under Covid-19 to hide its failures.

They said that the coronavirus spread some three months ago, but even then the government claimed major economic targets could not be achieved due to the pandemic.

Asif said that his party would speak against the budget during the budget debate as all the figures given by the government are incorrect.

He said that four million have already gone below poverty line in the wake of the pandemic, while many more would be affected, if these remained the policies of the government.

Asif claimed that Jehangir Khan Traeen was forced to go to the UK, as he could become an approver against the government.

He also said that the government employees were not given any reasonable pay rise on the orders of the IMF, which is not fair.

PPP leader Naveed Qamar said that what else could be expected from the PTI government, which has been installed to destroy the economy, adding this budget is no different than the PTI's previous budget.

He said that no relief to government employees is quite unjust as inflation has skyrocketed in last two years.

A spokesman for the Awami National Party (ANP) said that the budget could not be termed poor friendly as there is nothing for the poor.

He urged all political parties to unite against the "anti-poor" activities of the government.

Senator Sirajul Haq said that the government did not consult the opposition on budget, fearing it would bring no relief to the poverty-stricken masses, which proved true.

He said that there is nothing for the poor man in the budget, who has been badly affected due to the novel coronavirus in the country. In the federal budget for 2020-2021, he contended that rulers have also failed to prepare Covid-19 prevention strategy, bring down inflation, and create jobs for millions of jobless youth.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020