ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly on Wednesday approved the annual budget for the new financial year (2016-2017) with total outlay of Rs4.3 trillion and deficit of Rs1.3 trillion (3.8 percent of the GDP).

The lower house of parliament approved the supplementary grants worth of Rs260 billion despite resistance from the opposition parties. As many as 147 demands for grants for the next financial year relating to different ministries, divisions and departments were also approved.

The house witnessed very thin presence on both sides of the aisle throughout the budgetary proceedings. The bigwigs from treasury and opposition, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, PTI chief Imran Khan, Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, PkMAP chief Mehmood Achakzai and JUI-F chief Fazlur Rahman were not present in the house in Wednesday’s session.

A clear disinterest of lawmakers on budgetary proceedings was visible as many of the lawmakers were busy gossiping from the start to the passage of finance bill.

Interestingly, some lawmakers were seen sleeping during the concluding speech of Finance Minster Ishaq Dar. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali lightly shook the hand of Defence Production Minister Rana Tanvir to awake him.

Dar, concluding the debate, said that government has taken measures in the budget to increase the country's GDP growth and is successfully following the economic roadmap introduced in 2013 when it took the charge.

"The government has accommodated the recommendations of the Senate as well as of the National Assembly in the Finance Bill," he said. Defending the supplementary grants, the minister said volume of these grants is very low, around Rs261 billion for the outgoing financial year as against Rs1.43 trillion of the year 2013-2014.

Responding to the opposition parties concerns, he said government was working to constitute fresh National Finance Commission (NFC) award. He held provinces responsible for the delay in new award by saying two provinces had not sent the names of their members for the commission on time.

He informed that Federal Board of Revenue (FBR)'s officials would hold meeting with Swiss authorities in Bonn on June 25 to get access to the Pakistani assets worth of $200 billion in Swiss banks.

“Pakistan is expected to get membership of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD's) global forum that would ensure exchange of information regarding tax evasion,” he added.

He stressed the provincial governments to improve the tax collection on the agricultural sector. He informed that government would issue a three years bond to clear the refunds of the exporters, which stood at Rs221 billion.

"Provinces will have to pay the cost if federal government clear the refunds by releasing amount," he remarked.

"Number of income tax filers has increased to 100,000 from 700,000," he said and added this number should be further higher. The government had given an opportunity to the non-tax filers to become tax filers but they did not avail it. The non-filers should be charged 0.4 percent withholding tax on the banking transactions, he maintained.

The PML-N government on June 3 presented fourth budget with total outlay of Rs4.3 trillion for the next fiscal year. It has kept GDP growth target at 5.7 percent, budget deficit 3.8 percent of the GDP (Rs1.3 trillion), defence budget Rs860 billion, Rs800 billion for public sector development programme (PSDP), Rs1.4 trillion has kept for interest payment, Rs240 billion for pensions, Rs140.6 billion for subsidies, Rs352.8 billion for running expenditure of civil government and Rs441.6 billion for grants and transfer.

Taking part in debate, PPP’s Nafeesa Shah said government should end double taxation system, as it promotes black businesses in the country. “There was also a need to make transparent CPEC project,” she said, adding that there was a need for more focus on agriculture.

PTI’s Arif Alvi said there was a need to discourage indirect taxation system. “Small provinces should not be neglected at any stage.”

PPP’s Shazia Marri said the government had not implemented National Action Plan in letter and spirit. “There was no proper relief for poor in this budget.”

Jamaat-e-Islami MNA Tariq Ullah asked government to increase tax net system. “Government should focus on providing relief to poor people of country.”

Sheikh Rashid from AML said that incumbent government was not creating as much jobs for the people as the previous governments.

PPP’s Azra Fazl, on her turn, said that there was a need to bring amendments in the finance bill. “Tax collection should be the responsibility of provinces,” she added.

Khalil George MNA from treasury benches drew the attention of the house that funds meant for minorities were given to Muslim seminaries in KP.

Responding to him, Dr Shireen Mazari said that KP government had already taken notice on it. “PTI believes in equal rights and already on the direction of party chief the (provincial) government had taken notice on it,” she added.