Islamabad: Senate Opposition Leader, Senator Sherry Rehman, slammed the government for presenting what she called a ‘lame duck budget.’ “The future of Pakistan is at risk. This is a lame duck budget by a lame duck government. This is pre-poll rigging through and through,” said Rehman on the floor of the House. Rehman reduced the budget into three Bs, “This is a borrowing, billionaire’s and barbadi (disaster) budget,” she emphasized. “The textile industry, that contributes 57% to the country’s exports has lost its global textile share by 23%. 150 mills have closed down. This is alarming considering that we are the 5th largest cotton producer in the world!” exclaimed the Senator.
Stressing the significance of the budget, Rehman mentioned the main economic danger points, “Our circular debt has reached a whopping Rs 1 trillion. We are the 7th most stressed water nation and only Rs38 billion have been allocated for water without any details”. “We have a public debt of 22 trillion, which was 13 trillion in PPP’s time, whereas external debt is projected to soar to Rs 103 billon by next year. Pakistan’s entire budget is based on borrowing to pay back more loans. How can the government not call this a financial emergency? The next government will face a nightmare of repayments and no revenue stream,” Rehman elaborated.
“The World Bank says that Pakistan needs to raise $17 billion to cover for its debts repayments and current account deficit. How will any of this be done and achieved under this paralysed economy?” asked the Senator. Rehman further said, “$40 billion was borrowed in the span of four years. We are taking more debt to pay back debt. Our Euro bond has to be returned in July 2018. There is no revenue stream to meet these targets and expenditures. As a result, more Euro bond will be raised and more loans will be taken from China”.
“30% tax concessions have been given to billionaires but nothing for the poor. The government has provided no relief for the masses. Instead, the burden remains on the poor with the petroleum tax they are quietly introducing. Quite frankly, the government has dropped a petrol bomb on the people of Pakistan. Due to this, there will be be a 200% increase in petrol prices,” Rehman added.
“Why has the government given tax concession to imported LNG and none to Pakistani gas? The Qatar LNG deal is already marred by controversy. To this day, we don’t know what is under the black ink used to block transparency on the contract with Qatar Gas,” Rehman said. The Senator pointed out, “The NFC award has not been given in five years. How can they determine where the federal slew of consolidated indirect taxes like the economic fund will go without the NFC award? This budget is unconstitutional”.
The Vice-President of PPPP added, “I am extremely shocked that 98 lakhs per day has been allocated for the President house. I remember in PPP’s time, it was six lakhs per day and even that, worried President Zardari enough to take on all tea expenditures on his personal account”. The Senator reiterated, “On top of this, it is alarming that irregularities worth Rs 8 trillion have been found in the government’s accounts! This figure is almost double the amount allocated for the fiscal year’s budget”.