ISLAMABAD: A day after, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin painted a rosy picture of the economy, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s Ahsan Iqbal, on Tuesday, questioned the economic wizard of Prime Minister Imran Khan, whether to believe his two-month earlier statement that the economy is in a terrible shape or his latest claim of putting the country on path to economic development.
During his speech on the budget debate in the National Assembly, while referring to the recent interview of Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he had said that “no need of nuclear arsenals once Kashmir issue is resolved”, Iqbal questioned: “Who’s given you this authority, Mr Imran Khan…you can’t speak on nuclear programme of Pakistan as it is the property of 220 million people of Pakistan”.
In the same breath, he continued that “Imran Khan has been on imposed the country, through a conspiracy, to roll back the nuclear programme of the country”.
“Now, the cat is out of the bag and now we got to realise that that it was the agenda of the foreign donors. And the agenda for which the foreign donors had paid huge sum to the PTI, was meant to roll back the nuclear programme,” he added.
He said that whether the issue of Kashmir is resolved or not, the nuclear deterrence of the country is non-negotiable, and there will be no compromise on this.
He said that unrealistic targets have been set in the budget 2021-22.
He said the government will not be able to achieve the tax collection target of Rs5.8 trillion.
He said that efforts should be made to attract foreign investment and bolster the country’s exports, adding additional funds should be allocated for the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
Taking part in the debate, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhary Fawad Hussain said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan has put the country on the right track with the economy witnessing accelerated growth.
He said that the opposition parties have the right to criticise the government but responsibility also rests with it to make positive contributions to the system, adding the opposition should do positive politics to collectively take the country forward.
He once again invited the opposition parties to sit with the government on important matters including electoral and judicial reforms.
He said that the government would welcome the suggestions by the opposition on the electoral reforms, adding, we want to strengthen the Election Commission of Pakistan as use of electronic voting machines is the need of the hour to ensure transparency and fairness in the elections.
Terming the 10-year rule by the PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) from 2008-18 as the darkest period of Pakistan, he said that the previous governments ruined the economy through their flawed policies.
He pointed out that the country’s loans were Rs6,000 billion by 2008, which increased to Rs26,000 billion by 2018, adding today, the situation is that we are paying Rs2,000 billion every year for debt servicing.
In addition, Rs900 billion are being paid as capacity payments to the power plants, which would increase to Rs1,500 billion by 2023.
Chaudhary said that under the 18th amendment, a big share of revenue goes to the provinces.
He said that Rs1,600 to 1,700 billion went to Sindh over the last two years under the National Finance Commission (NFC).
The minister said that another Rs700 to 750 billion would go to Sindh during the next fiscal year.
However, he regretted that the Sindh provincial government has done nothing worth mentioning to give relief to the people.
He said this is the reason that the prime minister has stood up against corruption.
Rahat Amanullah Bhatti said that the elected representatives have a responsibility to launch a sustained campaign against power pilferage and to provide clean drinking water in their constituencies.
Jamaluddin said the government should enhance the salaries of all employees by 20 percent.
Tahir Sadiq said the salaries of employees should be enhanced by 25 percent.
He said the local government system should be restored to address the problems of the people at grassroots level.
Shazia Marri said that the budget is anti-people and anti-farmers, adding the figures have been fudged in the budget.
Ali Nawaz Awan said that the entrepreneurs are all praise for the government’s pro-business policies.
He said we have given incentives to the export-oriented industries to make their products competitive in the international market.
Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan said that the farmers should be supported to enhance the agriculture productivity to meet the requirements of growing population.
He said the government should ensure implementation of the agriculture transformation plan.
Syed Faizul Hassan said that reforms should be introduced in the institutions with the aim to facilitate the people.
Syed Mustafa Mahmud lauded the government for coming up with an electric vehicle policy.
However, he said that we need to invest more on building the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles.
This, he said, will reduce our oil imports and address the issue of smog.
Sanaullah Mastikhel said that the country’s economy is showing improvement, despite the prevailing Covid-19 situation.
He said Pakistan will now witness rapid industrialisation under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
Muhammad Anwar, Nafeesa Khattak, Chaudhry Nazir Saifur Rehman, Agha Rafiullah, Usman Tarakai, Ali Gohar Khan, and other both from treasury and opposition took part in the budget debate.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021