ISLAMABAD - The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue on Thursday approved the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2015 with some amendments, a conditionality of the IMF programme.

The Senate’s body, which met under the chairmanship of Senator Saleem Mandiwalla, has approved the proposed State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2015 to set up an independent monetary policy committee to take critical monetary policy decisions. After the amendments, powers would be taken from Executive Board of the SBP and delegated to the Monetary Policy Committee to determine policy rate and do away with the perception of government influence in SBP decision with respect to policy rate.

The monetary policy committee would comprise of SBP governor and its three nominees from the central bank, four representatives of Board of Governors out of the existing nine members and appointments of three macroeconomic economists nominated by the federal government to take the decision on the monetary policy. The existing monetary board will cease to exist in which the finance secretary represents the federal government.

The government has rejected the proposal of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue to include Chairman Senate Finance Committee and National Finance Committee in monetary policy committee. The purpose of amendments in the SBP Act 1956 was to bring the existing legislation in conformity with the international best practices of a modern central bank

The Senate’s body on Finance once again failed to decide the fate of the ‘Anti-Money Laundering Amendment Bill’ that would bring tax evasion and taxation offences into the ambit of AML. The committee has decided to meet again on coming Tuesday by calling relevant stakeholders including representatives of Chambers of commerce and tax bar associations for taking their input on the issue.

Secretary Finance Dr Waqar Masood has tried his level best to convince the members to approve the AML bill on Thursday. However, Senators sought more time before taking final decision on the bill.

The government has agreed with the amendments proposed by the committee regarding AML bill. “Except with prior consultations of FMU (Financial Monitoring Unit), an investigating or prosecuting agency shall not charge any person with the offence of money laundering in relation to a predicate offence punishable under the Sales Tax, 1990 (VII of 1990), Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 (XLIX of 2001) and the Federal Excise Act, 2005”, said one of the suggestion of the committee. The government has also agreed with the committee to bring down the fiscal offences under AML to five from nine.

Awami National Party (ANP) has announced to reject the AML. “No question arises to approve the Anti-Money Laundering Amendment Bill, as we will not support it at any cost,” said committee member Senator Ilyas Bilour of ANP. He came down hard on the chairman Senator Saleem Mandviwalla by saying, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) always cooperate with ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) in settling main issues.

He demanded of the government to also include those officials of the Federal Board of Revenue in AML, which issue wrong notices to the taxpayers. He proposed to enhance the salaries of the FBR’s officials by three times in order to stop the corruption in the tax department.

Chairman Committee Senator Saleem Mandviwalla observed that approval of AML might halt due to the behaviour of the FBR. He said that committee members have serious reservations on the AML bill, which should be addressed before passage of bill.