Govt took $36.8b foreign loans in last five years, MPs told

ISLAMABAD – The federal government took $36.8 billion foreign loans during last five years to build country’s forex reserves and repay previous loans.

Secretary Economic Affairs Division Arif Khan informed the National Assembly standing committee on finance and revenue about foreign loaning and aids etc on Friday. He also briefed the Committee about the role of EAD. He said that federal government had taken $36.8 billion foreign loans in last five years.

Giving details, Khan said that Pakistan had taken $7.2 billion loan from the commercial banks and $5.8 billion from the World Bank. Similarly, Pakistan borrowed $4.4 billion from the Asian Development Bank and issued Sukuk and Euro bonds worth of $4.5 billion. However, the recently launched Sukuk and Euro bonds worth of $2.5 billion are not included in these loans. He further informed that Pakistan had also borrowed $6.6 billion from the International Monetary Fund during last five years.

The National Assembly’s standing committee on finance and revenue, which met under the chairmanship of Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh, MNA, showed its displeasure on the absence of the finance minister, finance secretary and finance advisor.

The acting chairman of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) briefed the Committee on insider trading in stock exchange. The Committee showed its displeasure on the performance of the SECP as not a single criminal case of insider trading against any Stock Exchange dealer has been filed by SECP in the Court of Law since 2015. The acting chairman of the SECP told the Committee that SECP has taken cognizance on the offence of insider trading and accordingly has filled 04 criminal complaints before the Court of Sessions. The SECP is investigating against 15-20 companies for inside trading.

Committee Chairman Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh came down hard on the government for not taking measures to control the corruption. The government’s departments are not taking action as corruption, smuggling and inside trading are on the rise in the country. “All the government’s departments had failed to stop the corruption”.

While considering the matter pertaining to promotion policy for National Bank of Pakistan’s employees and details of recently promoted officials/officers and criteria adopted the NBP, Committee expressed concern on the absence of President NBP. The Committee members told the Committee that they have received numerous complaints from their constituencies regarding promotions of the NBP employees made by the National Bank of Pakistan according to new promotion policy. After discussion, the Committee unanimously recommended to Governor State Bank of Pakistan to thoroughly probe the alleged misappropriations in the promotions of the NBP and report about its findings to this Committee in writing within 15 days, positively.

Committee member Asad Umar of PTI said that Saeed Ahmad is not eligible for the post of NBP president. The government had not appointed Saeed Ahmad on the merit. Other committee members also expressed displeasure over the absence of Saeed from the committee meetings.

Meanwhile, meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs was also held under the chairmanship of Senator Saleem Mandviwala here at the Parliament House on Friday. The meeting was told that data analysis of three months long data of Telenor shows that no WithHolding Tax was deducted from FATA and PATA which amounts to a tax evasion of Rs267 million in just three months only from those areas. The Committee members and member FBR agreed that this is not possible for a telecom company to deduct withholding tax from one area and not from some other area as the same recharge cards are available across the country.

The Committee was told that audit of other telecom companies will also begin shortly as they have now submitted their transaction data. After audit of WithHolding Taxes, the same for sales tax will be conducted. Members of the Committee asked for strict penalties and fines against the tax evading telecomm companies. The Committee also passed “The Auditor General’s (Functions, Powers and Terms and Conditions of Service) (Amendment) Bill, 2017” with amendments. Among other amendments, it was also specified that the Auditor General shall be a Grade 22 officer serving in the department for at least 15 years without deputation.

The meeting was also given update on anomaly of withholding tax deducted on bonus share issued in respect of mutual funds, rules made under Benami Act, 2017, separation of cadres of Accounts and Audit, appointment of Independent officer for audit of AGP and draft bill in respect of Federal Consolidated Fund and Public Account. The Committee demanded progress reports on the matters by January 15. The public petition regarding merger of house rent into salary of government servants instead of following the current process of hiring was disposed off and referred to Housing and Works for consultation with Finance Division.

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