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ISLAMABAD: The federal government introduced “The Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation (Amendment) Bill, 2021” in the National Assembly Friday which proposes raising the limit on the stock of government guarantees from the existing 2 to 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation 2005, amended in 2017, provided for a reduction of federal fiscal deficit and ratio of public debt to gross domestic product to a prudent level by effective public debt management.

The Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 proposes the following amendments: (i) limit the stock of government guarantees at 10 percent of GDP; (ii) publication of Medium-Term National Macro-Fiscal Framework; (iii) institutionalize debt management functions in a single office reporting to the Finance Secretary; (iv) Assignment of additional functions to Debt Office; and (v) create two additional senior management positions within Debt Office.

Proposed amendments will strengthen the Debt Office with the mandate and resources for effective planning and execution of debt management functions of the government, maintained the proposer of the bill the Minister for Finance.

Clause 3 of the Bill, amendment in section 3 of the Act notes, “provided further that the total stock of outstanding guarantees shall not exceed ten percent of estimated GDP.

Explanation:-For the purpose of this clause, each guarantee shall be valued at its risk-weighted value in accordance in accordance with a valuation methodology to be prescribed.”

In another amendment in clause 4 of the Bill, addition of section 7A in the Act 2005 as “(1) The Finance Division shall prepare medium-term national macro fiscal framework, covering aggregate fiscal projections specially revenues, expenditures and primary balances of the upcoming fiscal year and the two outer years in respect of federal government, Provincial governments and other areas of Pakistan; which shall be presented not later than the 15th day of March of the ongoing fiscal year to the National Finance Commission (NFC) Monitoring Committee.

(2) The approved medium-term national macro fiscal framework shall be published in the budget strategy papers and annual budget statements of the federal, provincial and other governments as part of their budget documents."

There is also substation of section 12 of the Act 2005 as “within sixty days of the commencement of the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation (Amendment) Act, 202 1, the federal government shall, by notification in the official Gazette, establish an office to be known as debt management office, consisting of four executives including a director general and thee directors. Directors shall report to the director general and the director general shall report to the Sectary, Finance Division.

The director general and the directors shall be appointed on contract basis for a term of three yeas in such manner on the basis of such eligibility criteria including academic and professional qualifications and experience as may be prescribed. The contract may be extended subject to performance evaluation, for a similar term of three years.”

The government also introduced “The Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2021” in the Lower House of the Parliament. The Speaker National Assembly referred these two bills to the relevant Standing Committees of the House for further discussion and deliberation.

According to objects and reasons of “The Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill, 2021” in accordance with Pakistan's constitution, as well as its international legal commitments the State of Pakistan has a responsibility to secure the right to freedom of expression within its territory. The protection and promotion of the rights of journalists, and media professionals is central to the safeguarding of the right to freedom of expression. In fact, the International Federation of Journalists has emphasized, "the work of free, independent and impartial press constitutes one of the basic foundations of a democratic society,”

“There is, therefore, an urgent need ensure accountability for all forms of threats, coercion violence against journalists, and media professionals. Ensuring accountability in this regard has the additional objective of deterring/preventing future threats and/or attacks against journalists, and media professionals, by actively investigating, prosecuting and punishing such acts that effect all media professionals and the right of all persons to enjoy their right to freedom of opinion and expression.

While speaking on the floor of the House, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Dr Nafisa Shah said, “It was my bill which was drafted in 2012 for the protection of journalists. My intention is not to insult anybody….it is very unfortunate that a minister (Sherry Mazari) blamed me for making the bill controversial which is not true and I condemn it. I do not want to make the bill controversial as it is for the protection of rights of journalists and that is the reason I am going to withdraw my bill.”

The government also laid two ordinances before the house including “The Higher Education Commission (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, and The Higher Education Commission (Second Amendment) Ordinance, 2021.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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