ISLAMABAD - Finance Minister Ishaq Dar Saturday said that the new budget is pro-poor encompassing relief measures for all segments of the society and it aims at bringing the rich into the tax net.

Addressing the post-budget press conference here, the minister said due to the government’s prudent economic policies, the economy was now stabilizing.

He dispelled the impression of certain elements that Budget 2015-2016 was pro-rich and ignored the poor. He said the new tax measures have targeted the elite and affluent class, instead of burdening the poor. “Taxes have been levied on the affluent class.” he said, adding that the government has not imposed any tax on the basic commodities of life.

The government levied a one-time tax on the affluent and the rich, association of persons and companies earning income more than Rs500 million in the fiscal year 2015 to generate Rs20-22 billion for the rehabilitation of the temporarily displaced persons of the Fata. “The number of those earning income above Rs500 million is less than 200 in Pakistan, rest of the people will not face the burden,” he clarified.

Ishaq Dar made it clear that prices of ghee and oil had not been increased in the budget. “The report pertaining to ending wheat subsidies in Gilgit-Baltistan is also incorrect as the government allocated Rs6.05 billion for wheat subsidies in the region. Duty on furnace oil and high-speed diesel has also not been increased,” the finance minister said.

Dar said the government had imposed duty on the import of cement to encourage and protect the domestic industry, so there would be no impact on the cement prices. The country’s cement industry, he said, had the capacity to enhance production though it was already exporting the commodity. He further clarified the government had not levied taxes on milk as it only imposed tax on packed yogurt and cheese, remarking these items were for the elite class only.

Talking about taxes on mobile phones, he said the government increased the sales tax after abolishing regulatory duty on them. Following the decision, the government decreased the tax on import of low-priced mobile phones from Rs350 to Rs300. However, it enhanced the tax on medium-priced mobiles from Rs450 to Rs500 and on smart phones to Rs1,000 from Rs700, after abolishing the regulatory duty and increasing sales tax.

The minister also said that tax had not been increased on fertilisers as the existing 0.2 percent duty charged at wholesale level and 0.5 percent at distribution level had been consolidated and now total 0.7 percent duty would be charged from wholesalers.

To a question regarding relief measures for KP, the finance minister said the government had taken this decision irrespective of political affiliations and keeping in view the province’s condition. Business community and lawmakers of KP, including those of PTI, had demanded the relief package, he added.

Ishaq Dar said the government had tried to tighten the noose around non-taxpayers in the budget, as adjustable advance income tax at the rate of 0.6% of the amount of transaction is proposed to be collected on all banking instruments and other modes of transfer of funds through banks in case of the persons who do not file Income tax returns.

APP adds: About the impression that new tax measures hit the poor, the minister said, “I strongly contradict such notions as we have taken more relief measures for the poor while taxing the rich in the budget.” He asked the media to thoroughly go through the budget documents before reporting on them. The media, he said, should avoid such irresponsible reporting.

Dar said a number of measures had been proposed in the budget to support victims of suicide attacks. The nation, he added, had sustained great loss due to the suicide attacks. “Many families lost their loved ones and bread earners in terrorist attacks and are facing financial hardships,” he added.

In order to provide relief to the widows of those martyred in suicide attacks, the government had decided to pay their outstanding loans up to Rs1 million and markup as on June 30, 2015, obtained by the deceased husbands in their names or in the names of widows from banks or financial institutions, he said.

“Entitlement to this facility will be applicable to a widow who has not remarried. She will provide an affidavit that the government has not previously given any compensation in this regard and that she has no resources to return the loan and pay markup,” he added. Replying to a question, he said good suggestions from the opposition parties would be considered.