ISLAMABAD - Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Tuesday unveiling new measures incorporated in Finance Bill 2015 informed that PML-N government had initially allocated Rs500 million for ongoing military operation in NWA to facilitate Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of the conflicted area.
“The requirement of Rs 500 million by minister incharge of operation in NWA Qadir Baloch was approved in two minutes to facilitate IDPs of the area,” said Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, winding up debate on budgetary proposal 2014-15, which was started on June 6 (Friday).
He further said that all out resources would be utilised to facilitate the peace-loving men, women and children who would be displaced because of ongoing operation in NWA.
The finance minister, in his around two hour-long speech, attempted to respond the criticism, suggestions and proposals by lawmakers mainly from opposition benches for different sectors.
Dar, with the thin presence of the lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, said incumbent government had decided to reduce the proposed rate of gas infrastructure development cess to Rs 100 on power, zero on cement, Rs 150 on general industry, Rs 200 on captive power and zero on commercial sector.
Likewise, this government has also reduced the rate of general sales tax (GST) by one percent to 16 percent on seeds of cooking oil on import stage, finance minister shared amid desk thumping from treasury benches.
About the measures taken by incumbent government, he said his government had decided to decrease the prices of potash fertilizer. Dar said center and provinces will have to equally bear Rs 14 billion on potash fertilizer.
He further said that government would give additional 3 percent duty drawback on the above 10 percent value adding exports.
In another new recommendation, Dar said the package for exemptions on industries in Fata would remain applicable for next five years, adding that after consultation with IATA and other bodies, the government had set uniformed income tax of 4 percent on first class air travel.
The finance minister told the House that government had decided to manage incoming international calls through the telecom operators to discourage the grey traffic.
Taking credit from opposition benches, he informed the House that Senate had forwarded 133 recommendations to the National Assembly for incorporation in Finance Bill 2015 wherein 57 proposals had been accommodated and another 49 were under consideration. However, he refused to revise the increase in salaries and pension saying government did not have fiscal space for it.
Giving response to the concerns of opposition benches about the allocation for education and health sector in center, he defended that this amount would be used for HEC and other organizations still working under federal government.
About the massive tax exemptions given to different sectors of the society, Dar said elites had been receiving tax exemptions worth Rs 470 billion. However, he informed that government had decided to phase out all such SROs within three years. In the first phase, the exemption of Rs 103 billion would be withdrawn during fiscal 2014-15 and further reduction would be made by next two years, he added.
He made it clear that tax exemptions on power and fertilizers would continue, as it would cast negative impact on the common man.
Dar told that electricity tariff had not been increased for the consumers consuming up to 200 units per month. He admitted that NEPRA had not been receiving the electricity dues which had swelled to Rs300 billion.
Minister once again defended the government’s decision to approach IMF, as he said it had to repay the loans taken by the previous government of PPP. He informed that government had repaid $3.2 billion to the Fund during outgoing fiscal year against it received $2.2 billion.
Dar rejected the impression that the Budget 2014-15 was Punjab centered, saying the federal government had announced special packages of Rs 36 billion for all provinces, Fata, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.
He said that Balochsitan would get Rs 14 billion, Sindh would receive Rs 8 billion, Khyber Pakhtukhwa Rs 4 billion, Fata Rs 4 billion, AJK will receive an amount of Rs 3 billion, Gilgit Baltistan will get Rs 2 billion while no amount was allocated for Punjab under this special package so how could it be considered that the budget was Punjab-centered.
Moreover, he said that most of the mega projects like Gwadar Project, Gaddani Energy Park, N-85, Karachi-Lahore Motorway, Pak-China Economic Corridor, Lawari Tunnel and Diamir Bhasha Dam belonged to other provinces and a huge amount had been allocated for these projects for next fiscal year.
Dar said during July 2013 to May 2014, the imports had been registered at $41.1 billion, exports to $23.11 billion and remittances to $14.33 billion and added that during the said period 4,137 companies had been registered in the country.
About power outage in the country, the minister said that 90.4 billion units of electricity produced during first 11 months of current financial year while last year the figures stood at 83.35 billion units thus showing an increase of 8.33 percent.
He further said that PML-N had never claimed about ending the load-shedding in short span of time.
Taking the floor, opposition leader Syed Khurshid Shah said PML-N had also made tall claims about ending the load-shedding in some months. “Shahbaz claimed to end power outages in the country,” he said, responding to Finance Minister.
Earlier, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman strongly opposed the operation in North Waziristan (NWA) saying the use of force was not a solution of the problem.
“Government needs to clear about this operation? Is it against Waziristan community or terrorists,” He further said that it was decision of army and government supported it.