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Supplementary finance bill approved in NA

04 October, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: The amendment bill was under discussion in the Lower house for the last seven days. NA Speaker Asad Qaiser chaired the session as Finance Minister Asad Umer presented the supplementary finance bill. As the speaker initiated the voting process on the bill through verbal voting, opposition members challenged Clause 2 of the bill and demanded that there should be a headcount on it. The speaker approved the request and during the headcount, 158 voted in favour of Clause 2 while 120 opposed it. A clause-wise approval of the bill was then sought in the assembly.

The government on Wednesday retained a ban on purchasing property and vehicles by non-filers of tax returns as National Assembly (NA) approved the amended finance bill presented by Finance Minister Asad Umer amid several reservations by the opposition.

The last amendment in the bill was presented by a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) member and was regarding increase in salaries of lawmakers and a request for the right to withdraw pension. Umer objected to the recommended amendment and said, “It cannot be approved as the country’s economy is not in a state to allow it.” The House rejected four amendments put forth by the opposition and approved the bill through majority votes.

During his speech, the finance minister announced that the restriction on non-filers on the purchase of cars and land was being reinstated. Overseas Pakistanis, buyers of motorcycles and rickshaws of up to 200cc engine capacity, and widows will be exempted, he said, and added that the government had introduced a fine for those who would violate the amended law. The minister said modern technology would be used to expand the tax net and a beginning has been made by issuing notices to 179 big non-filers.

He said second phase of the campaign would be launched this week and the number of notices would reach to thousands. The PTI leader appealed to the well-to-do to pay their due taxes and contribute towards progress of the country. He held out an assurance on behalf of the prime minister that the tax money would be utilized judiciously. He clarified that the supplementary budgetary proposals would be effective from first of July this year.

After the PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal delivered his speech, the finance minister took the centre stage to apprise the parliament on the challenges facing the country’s economy. He said that it was unfair that the 40-day-old PTI government was being asked to fix matters that were not fixed in the previous 40 years. He reminded the PML-N lawmakers of the problems that were there in their reign but weren’t dealt with. “The gas sector was fine during PPP’s government but got destroyed during the PML-N era. The circular debt for just this past year was Rs 403 billion, and overall the circular debt has soared to Rs 1.2 trillion. And then they say that streams of milk and honey used to flow in their reign.”

The finance minister defended the govt’s policies, claiming that they were geared towards serving the poor, which, he said, wasn’t the case in previous eras. “The PML-N never thought of the poor, which was why there was the condition of being a tax filer even for the purchase of a motorcycle,” he said. “The farmers are also close to our heart. We are giving subsidies on urea and LNG-operated plants. For Rabi season too, we are giving subsidies worth Rs 6 billion to Rs 7 billion.”

The finance minister recalled the PML-N’s promise to end load shedding in the build-up to the 2013 elections. “You had vowed to end load shedding, what happened of it,” he said. “If Charsadda, Bannu, Swabi, Lyari, Noshki and Khuzdar are not a part of Pakistan, then your claim to having put an end to load shedding is true.”

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