This bud­get is made not by fed­eral govt, says Sherry

Pakistan Observer - - ECONOMY WATCH - PAR­LIA­MEN­TARY RE­PORTER

ISLAMABAD—Vice Pres­i­dent PPPP Se­na­tor Sherry Rehman, Tues­day, re­jected the bud­get pre­sented by the Fi­nance Min­is­ter last week, say­ing it was made by the govern­ment of one prov­ince and from an­other cen­tury. “The fed­eral bud­get is nor­mally a vi­sion state­ment that lays out de­vel­op­ment priorities for the en­tire federation, but this one is an ac­count­ing ex­er­cise which fudges fig­ures and mis­uses the Fi­nance Bill to sub­vert the spirit of the 18th Amend­ment and the Na­tional Fi­nance Award,” she said while speak­ing in the Se­nate.

“This govern­ment has not only used the bud­get and its pow­ers to un­der­mine the his­toric so­cial con­tract in­sti­tuted be­tween the federation and the prov­inces in the PPP govern­ment, but is also ac­tu­ally in­sid­i­ous in its at­tempts to erode the will of the Con­sti­tu­tion and the de­ci­sions of the NFC award by try­ing to re­move the power of the prov­inces to col­lect sales tax in the ser­vice sec­tor via a clause in the Fi­nance Bill,” she elab­o­rated. Rah­man said that this would im­pact Sindh, which had raised Rs49 bil­lion this year in taxes, and was way ahead of oth­ers in reg­is­ter­ing en­hanced tax re­ceipts by 29 per cent and trans­parency via dig­i­tal doc­u­men­ta­tion pro­to­cols.

“The fed­eral govern­ment is not only de­lay­ing trans­fers from the fed­eral di­vis­i­ble pool reg­u­larly and de­lib­er­ately, but also forc­ing the prov­inces to show sur­plus bud­gets by 13 per­cent in their ac­count­ing ex­er­cise so they are less el­i­gi­ble for funds,” she added. “Their pointed slow-down of fed­eral trans­fers, low de­vel­op­ment out­lays, and at­tempts to cut tax pow­ers of the prov­ince amounts to a vi­o­la­tion of the spirit of the NFC award, which has been in­ex­pli­ca­bly de­layed by over three years,” de­clared Rehman.

“This is how bud­gets were made in the 1990s, not the de­volved Pak­istan. If the fed­eral govern­ment wants to re­vert to the bud­gets of an­other cen­tury, then they will lose their man­date to gov­ern the federation. The dan­gers of such an ap­proach are ob­vi­ously lost on a lead­er­ship that has ig­nored con­tem­po­rary Pak­istan’s needs,” she said. Rehman also lam­basted the govern­ment for ig­nor­ing the onethird of Pak­istan that was now of­fi­cially un­der the poverty line, say­ing that it was the PPP govern­ment that de­signed and im­ple­mented all struc­tural re­form such as the largest so­cial trans­fer of pub­lic wealth to the poor in the form of the BISP.

“Nor has this govern­ment done any­thing to in­crease the tax base, as it has over­seen a re­ver­sal of his­tory and progress here too by re­duc­ing the num­ber of peo­ple who ac­tu­ally pay tax in Pak­istan to slip un­der a mil­lion per­sons. This is ac­tu­ally deeply trou­bling for an in­creas­ingly in­debted econ­omy, where in­stead of gen­er­at­ing re­sources by ex­pand­ing the tax base, this govern­ment has low­ered this base by its fo­cus on re­gres­sive and in­di­rect taxes that only bur­den the al­ready taxed and the poor,” she said. On forex re­serves and debt, Ms. Rehman said that the for­eign ex­change sta­bi­liza­tion the govern­ment likes to boast about is on the back of global oil price lows and overseas worker re­mit­tances, adding, “Whereas there is no cred­i­ble an­swer for why the ac­cu­mu­lated to­tal debt stock of the coun­try has risen to a stag­ger­ing amount of Rs19.4 tril­lion, with mount­ing ex­ter­nal debt, killing all at­tempts at real sovereignty or real growth.”

“By bor­row­ing at junk rates on for­eign cap­i­tal mar­kets this govern­ment has in­debted ev­ery Pak­istani to a fu­ture of Rs100,000 debt. This is their eco­nomic mir­a­cle,” main­tained the Se­na­tor. “What an­swer does this govern­ment have for cam­paign­ing on elim­i­nat­ing load­shed­ding in the coun­try, when in­stead of in­creas­ing electricity pro­duc­tion and re­form­ing trans­mis­sion it has ac­tu­ally presided over a shock­ing down­turn in in­stalled ca­pac­ity from 23,212MW to 23, 201MW in this fis­cal year?” she ques­tioned.

“Which Pak­istan is it bud­get­ing for when nei­ther the Na­tional Ac­tion Plan gets any funds that NACTA asked for, slash­ing bud­get by 90 per cent of its ask? How does this govern­ment think rapid de­ploy­ment will hap­pen for civil­ian law en­force­ment or in­sti­tu­tional co­or­di­na­tion on coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism and vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism? Is this too to be out­sourced like for­eign pol­icy to an al­ready frus­trated mil­i­tary which is also sup­posed to pro­tect against the un­rav­el­ing of the CPEC which the PPP had worked so hard to make hap­pen?” she in­quired fur­ther.

“There is no fo­cus on cli­mate change or wa­ter har­vest­ing, when Pak­istan is showing regular signs of dan­ger­ous wa­ter in­se­cu­rity and cli­mate stress, while the agri­cul­ture sec­tor shows wor­ry­ing de­clines. There was no lead­er­ship from Pak­istan at global sum­mits on cli­mate and car­bon bar­gain­ing, and this bud­get shows us why. This bud­get was made for an­other cen­tury, and likely for an­other Pak­istan, where high-com­mis­sion high­ways and trains are priv­i­leged over wa­ter, shel­ter, jobs and se­cu­rity,” con­cluded Ms. Rehman.

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