ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Saleem H Mandviwalla said on Saturday the government would have a review for increasing the country's defence budget by Rs30billion in April for the ongoing financial year, 2012-2013.

The defence expenditures are likely to go up by Rs30billion during the ongoing fiscal year due to the increase in pays, as a result of an announcement by the Cabinet at the time of the budget 2012-13.  The federal government had earmarked Rs545billion for defence at the time of the announcement of the annual budget 2012-2013 which would now be increased to Rs575billion.

The minister said the government would present the bill of tax amnesty scheme in the National Assembly on Tuesday, as the main opposition party, PML-N, was not opposed to it in a standing committee’s meeting the other day. The government has planned to generate Rs120billion to Rs150billion through the amnesty scheme in the last quarter (April-June) of the ongoing fiscal year in order to achieve the revenue collection target. The amnesty scheme would whiten the black money by paying nominal tax.

Talking to the media, the minister said Pakistan would approach the International Monetary Fund “whenever we need it”.  He was of the view that Pakistan should have in possession reserves enough for six months, which at present was only for three months.

Talking about the supply of power to agricultural tube-wells at a flat rate, the minister said it was the government's decision and that he was opposed to it.

The Cabinet's approved a summary for the supply of power to agricultural tube-wells at a flat rate that would cause Rs15billion loss per year to the national exchequer, he noted. He said the ECC approved the subsidy for tube-wells which, according to him, would increase the budget deficit.

The minister said the LNG import project had been referred to the Federal Cabinet subsequent to divergent views of the participants of the ECC meeting. He said the Finance Ministry issued funds to the ministries not individuals. He further said that all the decisions during his presidentship of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) were taken with consensus. Mandviwalla said that Rs25billion were needed for the Neelum-Jhelum project till June 30 for which “we would divert fund from the Diamer Bhasha Dam and remaining would be obtained from banks through borrowing”.