KARACHI - The Sindh Assembly Friday passed Rs1.04 trillion budget for the fiscal year 2017-18, with a deficit of Rs14.3 billion by a majority vote.

The Finance Bill 2017 was tabled by Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah, who also holds the portfolio of the finance minister, and was passed clause by clause in the house, without any disruption from the opposition members.

Although amendments were also suggested by MQM lawmakers Syed Sardar Ahmed and Dilawer Qureshi in the finance bill but were later withdrawn by the movers over assurance from the chief minister to consider them in next sittings after the budget session.

“I am also close to agreeing upon the amendment of Sardar Ahmed in finance bill regarding repetition of punishments over interference in Sindh Revenue Board officers works but will make any necessary changes after legal opinion from law department,” he said.

The assembly, which had been in session for nine days since June 5, was prorogued after the passage of the budget by the order of Governor Muhammad Zubair read out by Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani.

The revised budgetary estimates reflected an increase of 19.6 percent over the outgoing budget for fiscal year 2016-17 of Rs869 billion.

Speaking on the finance bill, Opposition Leader in Sindh Assembly Khwaja Izharul Hassan rejected budget and finance bill as it had nothing to provide relief to the masses. Taxes are raised in the budget from Rs 124 billion to Rs 199 billion, he said.  “Treasury benches are supporting the bill as they are sensing some money coming towards them but we will oppose it as this money would be taken from the taxpayers’ money.”

Further lambasting PPP, Hassan said that PPP declares itself as the party of the province’s masses but as a fact it had only acquired only just above 3 million votes out of over 500 population in the province.

“You are not the party of masses instead you have a brute majority,” he said adding that over 8 million people that do not come out to cast their votes would be the target of opposition parties and would come out to vote against the policies of PPP in next general elections.

MQM Parliamentary Leader Syed Sardar Ahmed applauded the government for bringing in a tax free budget but said that there is more improvement needed in order to minimize indirect taxes that are a direct burden on the masses.

He further called for giving food subsidy in low income urban centers.

MQM lawmaker Dilawar Qureshi said that this is not a viable economy as it lacks implementation on direct taxes and rather collects taxes through secret or indirect ways.

“In Sindh only 6 percent tax is collected directly while the remaining 93.7 percent tax is collected indirectly,” he said adding that they reject this policy and this was not an economic vision.

PTI lawmaker Khuram Sher Zaman reiterated the same stance and said that Rs 172 billion is collected indirectly from masses and only Rs 12 billion are collected, increasing the suffering of the masses and giving chance to the ruling class to evade taxes.

“PPP government had not benefited the masses and it had only made poor more poor and rich more rich in their tenure,” he said adding that Rs 450 million were earmarked for the speaker’s house.  

Nusrat Sehar Abbasi said that if the government had utilised the outgoing year budget then it could have changed the situation on ground in the province. “The budget for next year had crossed one trillion rupees amount but what we could expect from this government when it was unable to utilize the budget of the outgoing year,’ she said.

“CM Sindh had himself admitted lapses in tax collection and the big fishes easily escape from the tax net and only common man is contributing to the provincial exchequer,” she said.

After the passage of finance bill, the chief minister congratulated the entire house over the passage of bill but said that there are some elements who lose their track during budget debate but later come on track.

Responding to Khwaja Izhar’s comments, he said that PPP is the majority party of the province and had support of people of the province. “Instead the opposition leader seems to have lost his confidence among opposition parties as 50 percent of them had not come to the house in this important session,” he said. “I appreciate the opposition lawmakers for their hard work in bringing cut motion but their efforts were in wrong direction due to lack of proper leadership guidance, he taunted at the opposition leader.”

Earlier, 732 cut motions were submitted by the opposition lawmakers for provision of the 153 demands of grants.

The House, with PPP majority, rejected all of them with around over 150, rejected one by one and the others rejected through a motion from the Parliamentary Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro.

On Khuhro’s motion, all of the cut motions were clubbed together and presented in house for approval but the house rejected them with the majority amid protest from some of the opposition lawmakers from MQM.

The House later adopted the 152 demands for grants for various provincial government departments worth Rs 978.059 billion. They were tabled by the chief Minister in the House.  The authorized expenditure for 2017-18 was also laid in the house.

Speaking on the Finance bill, the chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah said that it was tax free budget and only rate of telecom tax was rationalized from 19 percent to 19.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the House also adopted a resolution unanimously paying tribute to the Shaheed PPP leader Benazir Bhutto on her birthday on June 21.