Finance Minister Asad Umar on Wednesday laid the Finance Supplementary (Second Amendment Bill), 2019 or mini-budget before the National Assembly (NA).

Speaking in the NA, Umar said that it was not a budget, but a package for economic reforms. “The government wants a resolution to economic woes of the country”, he said, adding that the government didn’t want next governments to complain about previous government’s (economic) wrongdoings.

The ‘economic reforms package’ envisages measures to boost the manufacturing and exports, while encouraging low-cost housing. It also facilitates agricultural financing to promote economic activities. The package also focuses on enhancing ease of doing business, simplifying procedures for setting up businesses and undertaking investment.

The government has proposed reduction of taxes from 39 per cent to 20 percent on small and medium enterprises, agricultural, and housing loans.

The finance minister said that in 6 months, agricultural loans will see an increase of 22 per cent. He said that the government wanted to encourage small businesses, and if they got loans from banks, businesses would flourish.

He said that the government wanted to tax filing and therefore, it was going to abolish the withholding tax for filers on banking transactions. Announcing the removal of ban on non-filers to purchase cars above 1300cc, the finance minister said they could now buy cars above 1300cc but with an increased tax.

The finance minister also informed that the government was bringing a Rs. 5bn revolving fund for a ‘Qarz-e-Hasna’ scheme. He also said that the government was ending the six per cent tax regime on business accounts, whereas the business would now need to submit withholding tax details only twice a year. Finance minister also said that the government was reducing tax on small marriage halls from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 5000.

No tax on investment in renewable energy projects: The minister said that the government was fully focused on bringing investment in the special economic zone. “We are abolishing all taxes including sales taxes on green field projects”, he said, adding that investment in green field projects will be exempted from income tax for 5 years. “Also, investment in solar energy projects will be exempted from all taxes for five years”, he said.

Taxes on corporate sector, banks slashed: He also said the government was ending the six per cent tax regime on business accounts, whereas the business would now need to submit withholding tax details only twice a year. He criticised the former government, saying that its taxation model was akin to “giving a rupee from one hand and taking it from another”. “We are replacing this model with a straight forward taxation approach. From July 1, supertax on non-banking companies is being abolished”, he announced. “Also, we are maintaining the 1 percent annual reduction in corporate income tax”, he said.

Umar said that although he did not believe the stock market to be the sole indicator of country’s economic progress, he was happy that the government’s initiatives had helped the stock market go up by 3000 points in last three weeks.

Previous government left the country in deficit: Umar said that the parliament and the constitution had a responsiblity to reduce inequality between the rich and the poor, which was not fulfilled. He said that the government would present a ‘medium-term economic framework’ next week, and hoped that the opposition would give positive suggestions to the government to improve.

As the finance minister started his speech, members of the opposition started sloganeering against the government. Responding to opposition’s noise, Umar said he wished the opposition would have called out when the former finance minister Ishaq Dar would read out ‘a pack of lies’ in name of finance bill.

He said that the gas sector was never in deficit, however, due to PML-N government’s policies, it was now in the deficit of Rs. 150bn. He further said that the previous government had left the country in the deficit of somewhere between Rs. 2500bn to Rs. 3000bn.

Criticising the past rulers over worsening economic crisis, the finance minister said that “these people left the patient in the ICU,” adding that we cannot bring change until narrowing the difference of balance of the payments.

“The exports were left at the lowest level; the economy cannot be put back on the track until settling the budget-deficit”, he said Commenting on the savings in the country, Umar said the PML-N left the savings at record lowest level of 10.4 in the country. “Foreign investment cannot be attracted until savings of the country are uplifted”, he said.