NA passes Rs.5.25 trillion budget

Islamabad:The Natio­nal Assembly on Friday approved a Rs5.247 trillion budget for the year 2018-9 as well as the Finance Bill-2018 with some amendments. The approved amendments to the Finance Bill-2018 include a Tax Amnesty Scheme and enhancements in tax exemptions for local NGOs and welfare organisations from one year to five years.

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Two new acts were also approved. The first was regarding transferring offshore monetary assets to the country and the second was concerning the voluntary declaration of assets within the country. Interestingly, both acts were laid before parliament on Thursday.

The government, which could not approve the budget on May 14 due to a lack of quorum, managed to get it passed on Friday despite it being heavily contested by the opposition. Laws on offshore monetary assets transfer and voluntary declaration also approved

A good number of members on the treasury benches helped approve the budget and the finance bill. The amendments to the finance bill were presented by Fina­nce Minister Miftah Ismail.

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The government has withdrawn the 10 per cent tobacco health levy, while another amendment ensures that non-filers cannot buy property worth Rs5 million and above. According to an amendment, companies building low-cost houses for the poor will get a 50pc reduction in their income tax liabilities.

The Finance minister said that a deadline of June 30 had been set for benefiting from the tax amnesty scheme after which holders of heavy bank accounts — whose sources of income are not known — would be asked to provide evidence of their revenue streams. He informed the lower house that foreign currency reserves of the country were fast depleting, dropping from $15 billion to $7.7 billion. However, the minister was hopeful that due to the increase in exports and good strategy implemented by the government, the situation looks likely to improve. He also announced honorarium of five basic pays for employees of the National Assembly and other departments working in the parliament house.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Asad Omar said the government has approved a Rs276 billion supplementary budget, of which Rs258 billion was allocated to retire and service foreign debt. “Such a heavy supplementary budget indicated that the government had earlier made a faulty budget,” he added.

He said that on the one hand the country’s reserves were fast depleting and on the other prices of oil were increasing in the international market. “The Titanic is going to hit the iceberg,” he said, adding that the people of the country must brace themselves to face an acute economic crisis.

Sheikh Salahuddin of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement said the supplementary budget will burden the people.

Sahibzada Tariqullah of Jamaat-i-Islami said the government should take decisions to benefit the public. He added that his party opposed the budget.

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