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Opposition rejected 2018-19 budget

01 May, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The opposition in Upper House of parliament on Monday rejected the budget for fiscal year 2018-19 recently presented by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government. Speaking in the House during budget debate, opposition leader 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,” she said.

The opposition leader reduced the budget into three Bs. “This is a borrowing, billionaires’ and barbadi (disaster) budget,” she said. “150 textile mills have closed down. This is alarming considering that we are the fifth largest cotton producer in the world,” she added.

Stressing the significance of the budget, Rehman mentioned some of the main economic danger points. “Our circular debt has reached whopping Rs 1 trillion. We have a public debt of Rs 22 trillion, which was Rs 13 trillion in PPP’s time. How can the government not call it a financial emergency? The next government will face a nightmare of repayments with no revenue stream,” she said. “The World Bank says that Pakistan needs to raise $ 17 billion to cover for its debt repayments and the current account deficit. How will any of this be done and achieved with this paralyzed economy?” she wondered.

“The government is taking more debt to pay back the previous debt. The principal on the Euro bond has to be retired in July 2018. There is no revenue stream to meet these targets and expenditures. As a result, more Euro bonds will be raised and more loans will be taken from China,” she said. “30% tax concessions have been offered to the billionaires but nothing announced for the poor. The government has provided no relief to 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 a 200% increase in petrol prices,” she 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,” she said. “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 whole year’s budget,” she lamented.”If there was no emergency, what was the need to appoint an overnight minister? On what basis is this budget locking Pakistan into choices for the next year when their term is ending?” she questioned.

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