NA continues budget debate as legislators present proposals to improve economy

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ISLAMABAD: National Assembly on Saturday continued debate on budget in another marathon sitting as legislators recommended wide range of steps to boost economic growth, generate revenue and improve infrastructure and social sector particularly health and education facilities.

Taking part in the debate on budget, MNA Mian Muhammad Shafi of PTI complained of lack of planning for economy during the tenure of previous governments and said in the past the only focus was on building of motorways and less attention was given to railways, waterways and building of dams.

Building of dams would have provided the country with cheap electricity which in turn would have increased exports, he said adding generation of electricity from gas and coal was expensive and increased production cost of  industries.

He said 90 percent of water in his constituency of Lodhran was brackish and water schemes should be undertaken and electricity rate for tubewells should be reduced for the benefit of his constituents.

He opposed taxes on edible oil, sugar and other commodities. Guldad Khan, MNA of PTI, said the total debt of the country had risen to Rs 31000 billion making it difficult to prepare budget.

He said the government’s proposals in finance bill 2019-20 would improve economic conditions of the people, generate revenue, increase exports and would lead to revival of industry.

The PTI government did not increase the rate of sales tax, he said and suggested that passes at Pakistan Afghanistan border should be opened to promote trade and create employment opportunities.

Maulana Muhammad Jamaluddin of Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA) said the way production orders of Asif Ali Zardari and Saad Rafique were issued, similarly two members from tribal areas should also be brought to the house.

He said it was matter of concern that the budget was prepared by International Monetary Fund (IMF), adding salaries of employees were increased but at the same time taxes were hiked nullifying any benefits to them.

Jamaluddin said no money was allocated in the budget for rehabilitation of persons displaced in the tribal areas despite survey of the destroyed houses.   He said FATA was merged in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but despite the promises, no tax relief to the area was mentioned in the budget documents.

Infrastructure and roads should be built to connect villages in the border areas so that people could return to their areas and transport construction material to build their homes, he added.

He said FATA had great tourism potential and some of its areas were as attractive as resorts like Murree.

Rafique Jamani of PPP said only three Parliaments completed their tenures due to history of political turmoil, adding Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made many achievements to his credit including successful negotiations at Simla in India and bringing back of 90,000 prisoners of war.

He said Sindh government improved infrastructure in the province, adding those in government in urban areas of Sindh should tell where they spent the funds during their time in power.

MNA Saleh Muhammad said PTI came into government in difficult economic conditions because of which the budget could not be made according to wishes of everybody.

He said people were ready to support PTI government which had to undertake difficult reforms to improve the economy.     He said the state owned entities including Pakistan International Airlines were running in losses while private airlines were making profits.

He appreciated the Ministry of Power for stopping power theft resulting in saving of Rs 81 billion and improving distribution and transmission system.

He was of the view that common people were paying all kinds of taxes but well to do who could pay were evading taxes.

He said uniform system of education should be put in place as different standards of education were endangering the future of students.

He appreciated the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for initiating reforms in education, health and social sectors and said for the first time in the history of province, people brought an incumbent government into power.

He told the house about the bypasses, underpasses, roads, electricity, schools and medical facilities that were needed in Mansehra and other districts of Hazara.

He said audit of funds of $ three billion given to Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) should be done to ascertain the utilization of money.

Nawabzabad Iftikhar Ahmed Khan Babar of PPPP said his party had introduced Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) for welfare of downtrodden segments of the society and increased salaries of government employees by around 125 percent despite financial constraints during its last tenure in government.

He asked the government to give special attention for improving road infrastructure in Muzaffargarh.

He appreciated the role of Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser to materialize the proposal of  Charter of Economy (CoE) given by the Opposition for strengthening the national economy.

Chaudhry Muhammad Hamid Hameed of PML-N feared that inflation would further increase in coming days due to taxes proposed on edible items and other sectors in the fiscal plan.

He called for revisiting the proposed taxation especially imposed on essential items having direct link with the common man.

Shaukat Ali of PTI said his party inherited collapsed economy due to mismanagement, wrong policies and corrupt practices of previous governments.

During last 10 months, he said, the government had compiled a list of tax evaders and those who did not declare their assets. He advised all such elements to declare their assets before June 30 to avoid legal action and embarrassment.

He was of the view that taxes could be imposed on luxury items but there should be no burden on the common man, asking the government to reduce prices of edibles items.

Expressing confidence in leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said, the PTI government would soon succeed in steering out the country from prevailing financial crisis.

Ahmed Raza Maneka of PML-N said the government could not achieve various targets set in supplementary budgets.

He also endorsed suggestions of other lawmakers to review taxes proposed on edible items as these would create problems for the common man.

MNA Farooq Azam Malik said that present government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was striving to improve the life of common man. He said the past government did nothing for welfare of poor people of South Punjab.

`He expressed the hope that PTI government would address the sufferings of people of Saraiki belt. He asked to start development projects in South Punjab particularly in Bahawalpur.

`He appreciated the role of Pakistan Army in maintaining peace and ensuring law and order. He said nation would not forget the sacrifices of Pakistan Army in fight against terrorism.

Syed Javed Ali Shah said that people should be given relief and the government should take steps to control inflation.

He said that the government should reduce the prices of fertilizers and urged to take steps for increase of agriculture production.

Sajida Begum said that the government would focus vocational and technical training of local manpower.

She said that strong export policy was a need of the hour and trade councilors’ role was important in this regard.

She appreciated the PTI government for launching “Ehsas” programme in the country under which loan would be given to poor and disabled persons to start their own business.  She added an amount of Rs 190 billion had been allocated for “Ehsas” programme.

She said that new processing units should be established in Dera Ismail Khan and other cities for date farms and other fruits.

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