- The passage of the budget for the fiscal year 2022-2023 brings the government one step closer to the revival of the stalled IMF programme
ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Wednesday passed Federal Budget, 2022-23 by incorporating significant amendments to the Finance Bill, 2022 on the dictation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The Finance Bill, 2022 – moved by State Minister for Finance Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha – was approved with majority votes after rejecting all the amendments proposed by the opposition.
The government faced no difficulty in passing the budget as there was virtually no opposition in the house as Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – the majority seat winning party – had resigned en mass in wake of Imran Khan’s ouster as prime minister in March this year.
The passage of the budget for the fiscal year 2022-2023 brings the government one step closer to the revival of the stalled IMF programme.
Finance Minister Miftah Ismail who had presented the budget with an outlay of Rs9.5 trillion on June 10, had avoided taking unpopular tax measures for fear of political backlash, but Shehbaz Sharif-led coalition government had to roll back several relief measures on the dictation of the IMF to take practical steps to stabilise the fragile economy.
However, Dr Pasha contended that the budget for the new fiscal year was not changed at the request of the IMF, saying 80 percent of the amendments were directly related to taxes.
She claimed that the aim of the government is nothing but to tax the rich in order to give maximum relief to the poor and the downtrodden.
Dr Pasha continued that the coalition government was implementing the agreements the former PTI government had signed with the IMF.
About the amendment to impose a Rs50 levy on petroleum products, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said that at present, no levy had been imposed on the POL products.
“The government has received permission from the house to impose a petroleum levy of Rs50 per litre on petroleum products, but at present, it is not under consideration and the reason we are getting the approval from the house so that we can implement it in future if we’d to increase the levy on POL products,” he added.
The session, which after about some two hours’ delay, witnessed MPs from Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) – which is part of the coalition government – lambasting their allies, saying “it will take us no time to sit on the opposition benches”.
Without naming anyone, MQM-P MNA Engineer Sabir Qaimkhani said the MQM-P lawmakers made it to the parliament through the votes of their constituency people and not to plead for something.
“We get these ministries, these seats, etc, so that we can get respect and serve. If there is no respect despite being elected, then we don’t need all this,” he lamented.
Without naming anyone, he said that “due to one man who is present in this house is the reason we don’t have the necessities in our city”, adding “our airport is shut, our PIA [Pakistan International Airline] office is closed, the railway tracks are in a dilapidated condition and blasts occur on our railway tracks. But no one is here to answer why all these are taking place”.
“I’m walking out against the behaviour of the ministers let me make it clear: without us neither the coalition government nor the house can run,” warned Qaimkhani.
He was joined by MQM-P MNA Salahuddin, who said his party had paid a political price and was bearing its consequences today.
In a clear-cut message to quit the coalition, Salahuddin threatened: “it will not take us a minute to move from here to there”.
The frustration of MQM-P lawmaker was worth noticing as he pushed back the PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq when he came to persuade him not to stage a walkout from the house, leaving Sadiq embarrassed.
The house also witnessed heated debates on the recently-held “controversial” local body elections in Sindh, with JUI-F, GDA, and the MQM accusing PPP of rigging the polls in the province where it is in power.
Responding to accusations, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari who is also the foreign minister, said that it would have been appropriate if the matter raised in the Sindh provincial assembly.
He said that PPP has been struggling for democracy, free and fair elections, and the economic issues of the people for three generations and has faced every tyrant.
The PPP has had the opportunity to govern despite rigging taking place, he said, adding rigging has always taken place against the PPP and to stop the party of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.
“A systemic approach was taken to execute rigging in this country. The PPP has always led the struggle for free, fair and transparent elections, be it against Zia, Musharraf or the selected from any era,” he added.
Taking a jibe at PTI chairman Imran Khan, he said that he is running a “movement for our institutions to play a controversial role instead of a neutral and constitutional one”.
“Like Imran Khan, there are a few parties, politicians and puppets in Sindh who are helped and made to come forward in a dictatorial rule. They were hoping, like Khan, for our institutions to not be neutral but controversial,” he added.
When our institutions started becoming neutral, be it the Election Commission, the courts or other institutions who used to take interest in elections, he added, these people started panicking, fearing their bails would be revoked if transparent elections are held and the institutions are neutral.
Meanwhile, shortly after the passage of the Finance Bill, 2022, the house also approved supplementary demands for grants for the fiscal years 2020-21, 2019-20, and 2018-19.
The house approved 39 supplementary demands for grants of over Rs836.118 billion pertaining to different ministries and divisions for the financial year 2021-22.
Twenty-five supplementary demands for grants for the financial year 2018-19 worth Rs254.2 billion related to various ministries and divisions to meet their excess expenditures were also approved.
The house was prorogued sine die.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022