ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Finance Miftah Ismail, while winding up the debate related to Budget 2018-19 in the National Assembly here on Tuesday, said that the government has adopted 42 recommendations of the Senate in the budget fully or partially, meanwhile 108 suggestions mostly related to the development sector, have been forwarded to Ministry of Planning and Development for incorporation.
He said the upper house and its standing committee had forwarded 157 recommendations to incorporate in the budget after a detailed evaluation of the budget proposals. He thanked the Senate’s Standing Committee on Finance for its weeks’ long analysis and subsequent recommendations made beyond political consideration.
Responding to the objections raised about the 6th budget of the government, he claimed the present government provided tax relief to all segments of society in the budget besides imposing no additional taxes, unprecedented in the history of Pakistan.
Rejecting the impression that government has imposed Rs30 billion taxes on petroleum products, he said that there are no intentions of doing so in the future. He said enhancing the upper limit of petroleum levy was a constitutional requirement. He assured that adjustment in the upper limit of Petroleum Development Levy (PDL) will not increase prices of petroleum products.
The government instead, the minister claimed, had given relief to people from a low-income background by exempting their incomes from tax.
Load-shedding: Talking about the challenge of load-shedding and ballooning circular debt, Miftah said, efforts were being made to contain the debt in order to avoid outages in the summer season. He said the government has increased power subsidy to Rs150 billion and has added 12,230 megawatts of power to the national grid which has greatly helped bridge the demand and supply gap.
Agriculture: About the steps taken for the growth of agriculture sector, he said the government has further reduced sales tax to 2 per cent on fertilizers. He said the farmers who will pay their outstanding bills in the first quarter of next fiscal year will be given exemption of 20 per cent in their bills. This will benefit the farming community to the tune of Rs6 billion.
Government employees: The minister announced to enhance the conveyance allowance of government employees of grade 1-16 by 50 per cent and will be applicable to those employees who sit for late hours. He said it is the priority of the government to provide relief to the low-income groups and for this purpose, the small housing schemes will be facilitated and encouraged.
The condition of filers: He said that non-filers of tax returns will not be able to purchase property but the limit for this purpose has been enhanced from Rs4 million to Rs5 million. He also announced to exempt the match industry from sales tax.
BISP: Miftah said the allocations of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) have been enhanced three times while Rs10 billion has been proposed for Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal for the next fiscal year.
Export: Miftah shared that the government had announced an export package, which resulted in enhancing the exports of the country. He added exports witnessed an increase of 24 per cent in March 2018 and 18 per cent in April 2018.
He said that a new export package was also on cards, which will be launched under the direction of the Prime Minister, adding that Rs24 billion has been set aside in the budget to accommodate the new package.
Explaining issues related to exports, the minister said that exports had suffered due to recession in the international market, internal security problems, and energy crisis in the past. Miftah Ismail said that exports are witnessing an increase following the incentives introduced by the government.
He rejected the misperception and claims of some members of the House that the government at one side had withdrawn taxes of about Rs184 billion and imposed other taxes of Rs400 billion.
Housing: While making an announcement regarding low-income housing programme, he said that government has proposed 50 per cent income tax exemption to those builders who would build small houses worth Rs2.5 million.
He also announced to incorporate the proposals regarding changes in Alternative Dispute Resolution System forwarded by Senate body.
Later, Miftah congratulated Chief Ministers of Sindh and Balochistan for presenting the budget of their respective provinces but questioned Sindh over presenting a three-month budget.
The National Assembly held a discussion on the charged expenditures pertaining to different departments including Pakistan Railways, civil works, Federal Tax Ombudsman, Islamabad High Court, Supreme Court and Pakistan Post.