ISLAMABAD - The PTI government on Tuesday said it would welcome the proposal of opposition to constitute a charter of economy if they are serious about it.

Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar in the budget windup speech in National Assembly said the government has not taxed the food commodities in the budget. However, he admitted to increase the GST on sugar from 11 percent to 17 percent, which would enhance the price by Rs3.5 per kg.

He clarified that the government has not increased taxes on flour, ghee and meat. He also accepted to impose taxes on imported fruits and vegetables. He said that inflation has increased at a lesser pace during the first nine months tenure of the incumbent government as compared to the same period of previous two governments.

Inflation had enhanced by 24.5 percent in first nine months of PPP government, 11 percent in PML-N and by only 9 percent in first nine months of PTI.

He informed the National Assembly that the Prime Minister office had decreased its expenditures by 32 percent, federal cabinet had reduced salaries by 10 percent and Pakistan Army had decided to freeze its budget.

Hammad said that the government had integrated the data of non-taxpayers from various sources. Similarly, the government had received the information of 152,000 offshore companies in 28 countries.

Meanwhile, the country would receive further information regarding offshore companies from other 10 countries in next few months. The government has taken serious measures to remove the structural flaws in the economy, which were not addressed by previous governments, he added. He also clarified that government has not reduced the budgets for Higher Education Commission and health sector.

The minister said that the government has proposed some amendments in the Finance Bill 2020. The government has reduced the advance Federal Excise Duty on tobacco from Rs 300 to Rs 10 per kg. The government has also decided not to give any power to income tax commissioners to raid houses. The government has decided to impose Federal Excise Duty on imported vehicles.

Earlier, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhary said the incumbent government has specified funds for knowledge economy. He lauded Pakistan Army for reducing its defence budget. “Pakistan Army is a merit based institution, which has to demand extra budget in principle but it preferred cut in defence budget,” he said.

The minister blamed PML-N and PPP-P for taking massive foreign loans in its era.

About the ‘charter of economy’, he said that PML-N had itself made mockery of its proposal. He said even the parliamentary leader of PML-N has spoken against the ‘charter of economy’.

About the NAB activities, he said that the NAB institution was in the country before the government of PTI. “It is changed after the PTI’s government that corrupt and thieves are facing dire consequences,” he said.

About the issuance of production orders, he said the lawmakers attending the proceedings on production orders to hardly make presence in the house.

PML-N’s Khwaja Asif, responding to the concerns raised by Fawad Chaudhary, said that there was divergence of opinion between government and opposition. “Why not we start from this budget 2019-20,” he said.

Another PML-N MNA Khwaja Saad Rafique, who is attending the house on production orders, said that there was a need to reduce the political temperature before entering the ‘charter of economy’. “Putting pistol on temple, you [government] are talking about charter of economy,” he said.

He said, ‘NAB has become Gestapo. “Previous governments had not changed this black law,” he said mentioning that people in the country cannot always be dealt with with an iron hand. “Don’t consider my voice as weakness...If this situation continues it can harm democratic system,” he said. “We are not facing jails for the first time...Move forward, avoid this mistreatment,” he repeatedly asked the PTI government.

Minister for Water Resource Faisal Vawda, on his turn, said that  PTI government would not take revenge from political opponents. He challenged opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif of recounting of vote in his constituency. “I would resign as MNA slot if he [Shehbaz Sharif] wins in recounting but at the same time he should also announce to resign in case of losing,” he said.

He criticized the governments of PML-N and PTI for not completing huge projects of water reservoirs.

PTI chief whip Amir Dogar, on his turn, said that there was a need to give strict punishment to those involved in corruption cases. He opposed raise in the prices of sugar, ghee and oil. About change after PTI’s government, he claimed that now there was possibility of corruption in the government projects. He was of the view that the limit of 300 units of electricity for giving subsidy to the common user should be enhanced to 450l units.

Federal Minister for IPC Fehmida Mirza said the 18th amendment was made part of the Constitution but sense of deprivation among the people Balochistan and South Punjab could not be addressed as yet. “Those who are raising raise objections on the NFC did not form the finance commission in Sindh,” said the minister.

PPP-P’s Ghulam Mustafa Shah of PPP, taking part in debate, proposed subsidies should be announced for agriculture sector to strengthen Pakistan’s economy. He asked government to review imposition of heavy taxes on salaried.

About 154 Senate recommendations presented by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati, PML-N’s Khurram Dastagir supported the recommendations for withdrawing increase in the prices of sugar, cooking oil and ghee. PPP-P’s Hina Rabbani Khar also supported the idea for not increasing prices of sugar, cooking oil and ghee.

The Senate had recommended increase ten percent adhoc relief in salaries of government servants of 17 scale. They recommended 20 percent adhoc increase in the salaries government employees from 1-16 scale.