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ISLAMABAD: The opposition lawmakers belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-backed (PTI) Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) as well as Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), a key ally of the ruling PML-N, on Monday termed Shehbaz Sharif government’s budget a complete disappointment and an “anti-poor” exercise which can benefit only the rich.

Despite tall claims of saying goodbye to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the federal budget for 2024-25 has turned out to be “disastrous” for the ruling government, they said as they began by expressing apprehension that imposing more tax on salaried class was just “illogical, and cruel” when inflation is skyrocketing.

The PTI-backed SIC MPs left the PPP members red-faced for “befooling” the masses through their fiery anti-budget speeches in the house after tacitly agreeing to vote on the finance bill after “blackmailing” the government to get all their demands.

Govt ought to have consulted us before budget presentation: Bilawal

Atif Khan of PTI-backed SIC MNA said that PPP, which is a major government ally, should clarify whether it opposes the budget or is it just a “fixed match” between the two major allies, who have come into power through the clutches of Forms 47s.

Referring to Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb Khan’s statement that the budget for the fiscal year 2024-25 was prepared on the directives of IMF, the PTI MNA said that the budgets had always been prepared on the IMF directives, but “now things have gone so worse that the finance minister is openly admitting that it’s an IMF-dictated budget which is shameful”.

Hina Rabbani Khar, a former state minister for finance of PPP, said that late Benazir Bhutto had signed the Charter of Democracy (CoD) for institutional reforms in the country but the PML-N shifted all the powers somewhere else after coming into power.

“We’d extracted that power after a decade-long struggle but you [PML-N] transferred all that powers there [to the military] quite easily”, she regretted, in a veiled reference to the military’s meddling in politics.

She ridiculed the government for mentioning the catastrophic 2023 floods in the Economic Survey of Pakistan, saying the policymakers had no idea the devastating flood took place in 2022 and not in 2023.

“This is shameful and how can we believe in the authenticity of this book [Economic Survey],” she questioned.

She regretted that the government is ready to subsidise the farmers of Ukraine but the irony is that both federal and Punjab governments are not ready to purchase wheat at Rs3,900 per 40kg to provide farmers with their due share of prosperity.

In an obvious reference to the much-hyped military-backed Special Investment Facilitation Centre (SIFC), she said that it has nothing to do with investment rather it is a useless activity at the exchequer’s expense.

“What comes out of it shows that you have done nothing. These budget documents are full of our lack of achievements as we lag behind in every sector. It’s a shame that this regime failed to give solar panel manufacturing policy for the fourth consecutive time,” she lamented.

In the same breath, Rabbani continued that the farmers of the country are constantly being exploited as the “vested interests are too deep and the farmers are too weak.”

Shabbir Ali Bijarani of PPP termed the budget 2024-25 an IMF-dictated budget, saying it offers nothing for the poor, and the handful of elite has once again succeeded in bringing a budget which can benefit their big businesses as usual.

He also lambasted Anwaar ul Haq Kakar-led caretaker government’s decision of importing wheat from Ukraine despite the fact a bumper crop was expected, adding the secretary food was made a scapegoat instead of holding a probe against the big fish responsible for the mega scandal.

Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Shaza Fatima Khawaja said that the training of young Pakistanis in information technology and artificial intelligence, with assistance from Huawei, will begin next month.

She said that during Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to China, it was agreed that Huawei would train 200,000 young people in the information technology sector.

Shagufta Jumani of PPP came down hard on the finance minister for imposing more taxes on the salaried class, saying “what you wanted to prove if you were to get back the 20 percent pay rise given to government employees.”

Mir Ghulam Ali Talpur of PPP said that agriculture is the pivotal sector of the country’s economy, for which more allocation is needed in the budget 2024-25.

He said that the National Finance Commission (NFC) award needs to be revived so that the resources can be distributed fairly among the provinces and the federation can be strengthened.

Chaudhary Bilal Ejaz of SIC said that more resources need to be allocated for education, health and agriculture in the budget 2024-25, adding Pakistan has a large youth population and there is a need for more allocation in the budget for the youth.

He said that there will be sustainable economic development in the country by equal distribution of resources and making the youth educated and skilled.

Shahida Rehmani of PPP said that there is a need for tax reforms and also to expand the tax net in the country, which will make the country’s economy sustainable.

Iqbal Khan Mehsud of MQM-P emphasised bringing foreign direct investment in the country at this time of economic challenges and the vision of SIFC is significant in this regard.

He said that in budget 2024-25, tax was imposed on the salaried class; at this time there is a need to provide relief to the salaried class.

Aftab Sheikh of PML-N said that there is a need for political stability in the country and mutual consensus among all the political parties is necessary.

He said that it is necessary to give relief to the people in the budget 2024-25 and major steps should be taken to provide them basic facilities such as housing, education and health.

PPP’s Abdul Kadir Gillani urged the government to provide a share of development schemes to South Punjab and called for the reinstatement of the South Punjab Secretariat.

“I will present the bill for the Seraiki province and see who opposes it,” he said.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal’s (JUI-F) Usman Badini highlighted the underdevelopment of Balochistan and urged for educational facilities for Baloch students like in Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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