- Finance minister tables bill in parliament seeking approval for election funds
- Says national and provincial elections should be held at the same time, under a caretaker setup
Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Ishaq Dar on Monday reiterated that a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be signed soon.
While presenting the Money Bill 2023 in the National Assembly, he said that the government’s first priority was to avert a default. “We have been successful to avert it, and now the next step is to establish a pathway to prosperity and to provide relief to the public.
“However, certain elements remain busy causing hurdles in the path of the country’s economic growth,” he said while slamming the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
“They (PTI) wish that the IMF deal is not reached and Pakistan gets bankrupted,” he said.
Dar added that PTI spread disinformation regarding the cancellation of his US visit.
Money bill tabled
The Charged Sums for General Elections of Provincial Assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bill 2023 seeks the release of funds to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for holding elections in Punjab as ordered by the Supreme Court (SC). The apex court has directed the government to hold Punjab polls on May 14.
The SC also asked the government to arrange funds for elections by April 10.
The bill presented states that the required funds for the elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa shall be “an expenditure charged upon the Federal Consolidated Fund, which comprises all revenues received by the federal government, all loans raised by that government and all money received by it in repayment of any loan.”
The bill stated that it shall “override other laws” and have effect “notwithstanding anything contained in any other law, rules and regulations” when it was in force.
It added that the proposed law would stand repealed once the elections to both the assemblies were held, noting that the general elections and polls to the Sindh and Balochistan assemblies need not be held for it to be repealed.
Dar said the national and provincial elections should be held at the same time, under a caretaker setup. “This will help in reducing the expenditure,” he said.
“The current security, economic and internal situation in the country is not cohesive for early elections and is not in the national interest,” he added.
While presenting the bill, the finance minister said that it is now the responsibility of the parliament to decide whether funds to ECP should be released or not.
He was of the view that SC’s decision on Punjab polls was against the interest of the country.
On economic woes
On the current economic woes, the finance minister held the policies of the previous government and the ongoing global economic slowdown as responsible.
“The PTI government not only didn’t implement the conditions of the IMF agreement, they took counter measures, which caused a loss of credibility of Pakistan….. There are no two opinions that the PTI government is responsible for the current economic woes,” he said.
“Moreover, the ongoing Russia Ukraine conflict and the devastations of the last year floods kept the economy under stress,” he said.
Dar added that the current government “remains dedicated to complete all the sovereign commitments of its predecessor, and complete the IMF programme”.
“In this regard, a staff-level agreement would be inked soon”.
Dar said that on the account of floods alone, the country’s infrastructure suffered losses to the tune of $14 billion, whereas its GDP suffered $16 billion in losses.
Dar said that as per the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), global food prices have increased by 14.3% on a yearly basis.
“Pakistan is among the countries which import oil, wheat, pulses, edible oil and fertilizer. The payments of which is to be made in dollars,” he said.
Dar said that last month, the government increased the budget for the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) from Rs360 billion to Rs400 billion. He said that the government is providing subsidy worth Rs23 billion under its various schemes.
“Due to the government measures, the Current Account Deficit (CAD) decreased by 70%, and has declined to $3.86 billion in 8MFY23, as compared to $12.77 billion in the same period last year,” he said.
Moreover, the trade deficit has reduced by 35.5% to $22.90 billion in 9MFY23 from $35.50 billion recorded in the same period last year.
The finance minister said that from July 2022 till date, the government has repaid $12 billion in external debt payments. “We are paying off our external obligations on a timely basis,” he said.
“The government has developed a strategy to increase the country’s foreign exchange reserves to $13 billion, by the end of this fiscal year,” shared Dar.
The minister said that the government is taking measures to reduce its expenditure and increase revenues. “The government policy is to end untargeted subsidy, and facilitate the low-income segments through targeted subsidy i.e. BISP,” he said.
After his speech in the NA, Dar left for Senate to present a copy of the same bill.
“I beg to lay before the senate a copy of the money bill to charge the sums upon the FCF for charging sum for general elections to the provincial assemblies of the Punjab and KP as required under Article 73 of the Constitution,” he said.
On the occasion, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani said that the notices for the proposal to make recommendations on the money bill may be submitted by the members to the Senate Secretariat by Thursday, April 13, 2023 at 10am.
“The proposal received for making recommendations on the money bill shall be sent to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue which shall submit its report by Friday, April 14, 2023,” he said.
He said that on Friday the upper house of parliament would consider the committee’s report and make recommendations to the NA accordingly. He then adjourned the session till 10am on Friday.