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Top Story

June 14, 2017



NA passes budget denoting increase in minimum wages, changes in taxes

NA passes budget denoting increase in minimum wages, changes in taxes

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday passed "The Finance Bill 2017", giving legal cover to the budgetary proposals for the next financial year that envisage an increase in minimum wages of private employees and labourers and some changes in taxes.

The defence budget was passed in the absence of the opposition. The House, while passing the budget with a total outlay of Rs4,700 billion, adopted a number of amendments proposed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, senators and MNAs during the debate.

The provincial share in federal taxes is estimated at Rs2,384.2 billion, which is 11.6pc higher than the budget estimates of the outgoing fiscal year. The external receipts during the next year are estimated at Rs837.8 billion while the budget envisages defense allocations of over Rs920 billion.

The opposition parties stayed away from proceedings of the National Assembly during the winding up speech of the finance minister or passage of the Finance Bill, 2017. The opposition members also boycotted the budget and did not move their cut motions as protest against the government’s decision of disallowing live coverage of speech of the opposition leader and other members.

However, Senator Ishaq Dar, during his speech, said the opposition parties had also given their inputs into the budget as they also have representation in the Senate. He regretted that the opposition did not take part in the budget debate. He however added that the gap created due to their absence was filled by the active participation of lawmakers of the Upper House of Parliament.

“ The opposition did not take part in the budget debate, still there was time to present a Charter of Economy with its consultation and if we prepare Charter of Economy with consultation it will be very good for the country's economic stability,” he said.

He informed the National Assembly that as many as 75 recommendations forwarded by the Senate were fully or partially accepted for incorporation in the budget 2017-18.  He said the Senate had forwarded 276 proposals for incorporation in the budget, out of which 147 were related to Public Sector Development Programme, which had been sent to Planning Division with comments to have favorable consideration on these proposals.

Out of the remaining 129, as many as 75 have been accepted fully or partially or at lease in principle, the minister informed the house.

Ishaq Dar said that recommendations of lawmakers with regard to promotion of Islamic Banking in the country, minimum wage of labours, Service Sector, free income tax facility for oil marketing companies, further exemption of tax on fertilizers to facilitate small farmers, abolishment of import duty on permanent magnet used in DC fans as well reduction on import duty of plastic have been incorporated.

The budget accorded merger of 50% adhoc relief allowance granted to civil employees and adhoc allowances of 2009 and 2010 for personnel of armed forces with the salary and ten percent adhoc relief allowance on the basic salary after merger. Zarb-e-Azb allowance for armed forces personnel will be in addition to this.

The budget provides relief measures relating to sales tax and federal excise duty for different sectors of economy. In the budget, sales tax rate has been reduced from 17 to seven percent on several different types of machinery used in poultry sector. 

Allocations for Azad Jammu and Kashmir have been enhanced from Rs12 to Rs22 billion which will ensure rapid development process in the area. Gilgit Baltistan will also be given 15 billion rupees for its development projects as against 9 billion rupees during outgoing year. Fata's development budget has been enhanced to Rs24.5 billion from Rs21 billion.

Higher Education Commission will get Rs 35 billion, social sector 135 billion rupees and special measures have been proposed for the growth of IT sector during the next financial year.

Infrastructure gets priority in the new budget with huge allocations of 414 billion rupees including 320 billion rupees for National Highway Authority.

The budget envisages Rs 404 billion allocations for energy sector. About 180 billion rupees have been earmarked for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects while social sector allocations have been increased from the existing 90 billion to Rs 153 billion.

In his winding up speech, the finance minister said the incumbent Government during the first three years, focused on strengthening the national economy saying that next year growth rate target has been set at 6%.

He said the Governmentintroduced many structural reforms and resultantly the economy was put on the growth path as has been acknowledge by known world financial institutions which increased the ratings of Pakistan economy and enhanced its outlook from negative to stable and then to positive.

He said that due to these policies the growth rate was recorded at 5.3 % and has been fixed to grow 6 % next fiscal year and by 7 % during the following year.

The minister informed the House that the new National Finance Commission (NFC) award would be announced in consultation with all the province and till that time the present NFC award would remain intact.

However, he dispelled an impression that in absence of the new NFC award, the presentation or passage of the federal budget was an illegal practice.

He also rejected an impression about considerable increase in the foreign debt. Finance Minister said that the Foreign Debt which was $ 48.1 billion in 2013 was $ 58.4 billion in 2017.

He said that according to a transition plan, the debt to GDP ration would be reduced to 50 percent during next fifteen years.

He said that if keeping in view the enhancing development spending in the form of PSDP and expanding the allocations for income support programme and the reduction in fiscal deficit form 8.2 percent to 4.7 percent, the debt did not actually increased.

He said that as many as Rs90-100 billion were being spent annually on the war on terror and rehabilitation of Temporarily Displace Persons (TDPs) and this year too an amount of Rs90 billions has been earmarked for the purpose.

The National Assembly approved 150 Demands for Grants relating to different ministries, divisions and departments for the next fiscal year.

These related to Climate Change, Commerce, Communications Division, Pakistan Post Office, Defence Division, Survey of Pakistan, Federal Government Educational Institutions, Defence Production Division, Housing and Works, Estate Offices, Federal Lodges, Human Rights Division, Industries and Production Division, Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Division, Law and Justice Division, Council of Islamic Ideology, National Accountability, National Food Security and Research Division, National Health Services, Parliamentary Affairs, Petroleum and Natural Resources, Planning and Development, Pakistan Railways, Science and Technology, States and Frontier Regions and Inter-Provincial Coordination.   





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