Amidst opposition protest, govt tables Supplementary Finance Bill in NA

ISLAMABAD: Amidst the Opposition uproar, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led federal government on Thursday tabled Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2021 — or the mini-budget in the National Assembly for approval.

The Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2021 was tabled by Federal Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin in the lower house amid protest by the opposition members.

Govt also tabled the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2021 in the assembly for approval.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari remained absent from today’s all-important parliament session.

Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser who presided over the session allowed the minister to table the bill.

Before the presentation of the Supplementary Finance Bill, 2021, Finance Minister Tarin read out the State Bank Bill before the parliament.

Tarin also moved a resolution to “extend the Tax Laws (Third Amendment) The ordinance, 2021  […] for a further period of one hundred and twenty days w.e.f. 12-01-2022, under proviso to subparagraph (i) of paragraph (a) of clause (2) of Article 89 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

In addition, he moved another resolution “to extend the Federal Government Properties Management Authority Ordinance, 2021 […] for a further period of one hundred and twenty days w.e.f. 15-12-2021, under proviso to subparagraph (ii) of paragraph (a) of clause (2) of Article 89 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”.

In all, eight resolutions were moved to extend various ordinances.

It is pertinent to mention, that supplementary finance bills will not be sent to the standing committee.

The House adopted different resolutions extending various Ordinances for a period of 120 days. These Ordinances include; “the Federal Government Properties Management Authority Ordinance, 2021”, “the Elections (Third Amendment) Ordinance, 2021”, “the Public Properties (Removal of Encroachment) Ordinance, 2021”,   “the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021”, “the Pakistan Food Security Flow and Information Ordinance, 2021” and “the Tax Laws (Third Amendment) Ordinance, 2021”.

The House adopted the resolutions with a majority vote amid uproar from the opposition benches.

The supplementary finance bill, termed by the Opposition as a “mini-budget”, is a pre-requisite to resume the $6 billion External Fund Facility (EFF) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to the finance ministry’s proposal, the government will tax approximately 150 goods at a rate of 17%. Therefore, goods that were currently either completely exempt from General Sales Tax (GST) or being taxed at 5% to 12%  would now be taxed at 17%.

The income tax rate on mobile phone calls is expected to increase from 10% to 15%.

Meanwhile, the GST rate on cars above 1,000cc will go up to 17% and the tax on the import of electric vehicles in CBU conditions will increase from 5% to 17%. Business-to-business transactions will go up from 16.9% to 17%.

Zero-rating available on supplies of raw materials for imported milk would be withdrawn and be taxed at 17%.

Supplies to duty-free shops will be taxed at 17%. As they will be taxed for the first time, there are no revenue estimates.

The finance bill also proposes that bread prepared in bakeries, restaurants, food chains, and shops be taxed at a 17% rate.

The bill increases the tax collection target from Rs5,829 billion to Rs6,100 billion for the remaining financial year. The government has also reduced the budget for development programs by Rs200 billion.

The “mini-budget” was one of the conditions of the IMF which was to be met before January 12, 2022, in order to recover more than $1 billion in installments from the Fund.

The Opposition loudly chanted anti-government slogans throughout the session to protest against the bill, due to which when Tarin, when he stood up to introduce it, could scarcely be heard.

Syed Naveed Qamar of Pakistan Peoples Party objected that the government was introducing new traditions as the government was bringing new ordinances after their expiry.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan responded by saying that the government had introduced the ordinances in parliament prior to their expiry. Therefore, everything would be according to the law and constitution, he said.

Advisor on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan replied that everything would be according to the law and constitution.

At one point in the session, PPP’s Shazia Marri objected to the strength of lawmakers in Parliament. At this, the speaker instructed all MNAs to stand at their seats for a headcount.

The leaders of joint opposition held a meeting at the Parliament House.

Speaking on the floor of the House, Former minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Khawaja Asif said that the government was selling Pakistan’s economic sovereignty by silencing the opposition and the people of Pakistan.

The PML-N leader said the government had violated the Constitution by presenting an ordinance that had already lapsed and expired. “You’re giving control of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to the IMF. Please have mercy on the people of Pakistan. Don t sell Pakistan. You allowed people to loot the country for three years,” he said. He urged the House to not let Pakistan surrender its integrity.

The PML-N leader further accused the government of reinstating an ordinance that was obsolete which is unconstitutional.

Khawaja Asif went on to say that there wouldn’t have a need to impose new taxes, create a new budget if the theft of medicines, wheat, and sugar were stopped.

“You used to chant slogans that rivers of milk and honey will flow,” Asif said in a scathing criticism of the government, adding that it has been “lying” to the people for three and a half years. “All the constituencies in KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) bear witness to the injustices you have committed (in the province),” he said.

The PML-N stalwart lamented over the government “increasing the prices of everyday items”. “Today we have surrendered Pakistan to IMF,” he said and added: “Echoes of the promises you made are still echoing in D-Chowk today.”

Amid a noisy session of the National Assembly due to protesting opposition lawmakers, a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) legislator Shagufta Jumani slapped PTI MNA Ghazala Saifi before the speaker’s dice.

The opposition lawmakers besieged the speaker’s dice during the NA session to disrupt the assembly’s proceedings for the mini-budget. A PPP lawmaker Shagufta Jumani slapped PTI MNA Ghazala Saifi after they exchanged harsh words during the NA session.

The treasury and opposition lawmakers were seen pushing each other during the NA speeches.

Earlier in the day, the Federal Cabinet has approved the Finance (Amendment) Bill which was presented in today’s session of the National Assembly.

This was announced by Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain in a tweet uploaded on Thursday.

Fawad Chaudhry said that the budget amendment bill, the mini-budget, will be presented before the National Assembly today. Taking to Twitter to make the announcement, Fawad Chaudhry said that the budget amendment bill is tabled before the special cabinet committee.

“After its approval, a parliamentary meeting of the PTI and its allies will be held,” he said added that the bill would be tabled before the National Assembly today.

Meanwhile, MQM-P has opposed any increase in withholding tax on telecom and IT products from 10 percent to 15 percent besides also rejecting an increase in taxation on the import of laptops.

The prime minister after listening to MQM-P’s grievances has formed a committee to review the matter.

After the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan went straight to the Parliament to attend the National Assembly session.

Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired the federal cabinet meeting in which Federal Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin presented the mini-budget for approval.

In an earlier tweet, Chaudhry Fawad said that the budget amendment bill was being presented to the special committee of the cabinet for its nod.

People should get ready for a tsunami of inflation as the government is going to present a mini-budget in the National Assembly session today (Thursday)l.

With the passage of the mini-budget, prices of so many items including mobile phones, stationery, packaged food items, makeup articles are expected to go through the roof.

Extra taxes will also be slapped on luxury items and imported vehicles. The government will slash the development budget amounting to Rs200 billion. TF REPORT

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