ISLAMABAD

The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue on Tuesday came down hard on the Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar for non-introducing wealth tax, reducing power subsidies massively, increasing salaries/ pensions meagerly in budget and making Gas Infrastructure Development Cess a part of the Finance Bill 2015.

The Committee, which met under the chair of Senator Nasreen Jalil, has considered the budget proposals of the Senators on the second day, which would be moved to the National Assembly for incorporation in Finance Bill 2015. The Committee unanimously recommended the government to enhance the salaries of civil servants and pensions of retired pensioners according to the fiscal space available with the government.

The committee has also proposed the government to eliminate or reduce the petroleum levy, which is accelerating the inflation rate in the country. Secretary Finance Dr Waqar Masood has informed the committee that government is currently charging Rs 8 petroleum levy on per liter price of diesel and Rs 10 on per liter price of petrol, which is additional to the General Sales Tax. The Committee also proposed that government should not make the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess a part of the Finance Bill, as it should be an act of parliament. Senator Ilyas Bilour of Awami National Party has moved the proposals and said that government has proposed to increase the gas prices from Rs 100MBTU to Rs 300 MBTU.

While showing concerns over reducing electricity subsidies in budget, the committee has also recommended the government should not enhance the power tariff during upcoming financial year 2014-15.  He defended the government’s move to reduce power subsidy from Rs 300 billion to Rs 185 billion for next year, as he said Rs 115 billion would be received from reduced oil prices and increase in power tariff made in last year. The Senate body has also proposed that EOBI pensions should be increased Rs 6000 per month to be brought at parity with minimum pensions announced by the government.  The Senate committee constituted a sub-committee comprising three members Senator Mohammad Talha, Senator Sughra Imam and Senator Rafiq Rajwana to look into the proposal of forming agriculture prices fixation commission. Chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Tariq Bajwa informed the committee that government has decided to eliminate tax exemptions worth of Rs 480 billion in next three years.