PESHAWAR - Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s business community has termed the federal budget 2018-19 as a political incentive and election budget in prevailing economic conditions of the country, saying that the budget was not growth-oriented.

Zahidullah Shinwari, president of the SCCI, while commenting on the budget for financial year 2018-19, said that no initiatives were proposed for development of smaller federating units, especially Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, while the SCCI proposal to boost exports to Afghanistan was also not incorporated in the proposed budget for the next fiscal year. He said that abolishment of regulatory duty was long-standing demand of the chamber.

He also said that the audit of corporate sector, improvement in capital market investment and reduction in various taxes are good steps. However, no initiative has been proposed to streamline the economy, he added.

Shinwari said that the government had collected over Rs4,000 billion in various taxes as compared to the release of refunds of Rs400 billion.

The SCCI chief said that the government had not set priorities regarding promotion of exports in budget, adding that reduction in withholding tax from 0.6 to 0.4 per cent for non-filers would not improve but would discourage those people who are already in the tax net.

Shinwari said that the sum of Rs1,000 billion has been allocated for the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) in the next fiscal year, but there is no share of KP, which would affect development process in the province.

He said that in the country, foreign exchange reserves were not available for the last 2 months, adding that this would be first budget, in which importance is given to expenditures. He said that no mechanism was proposed in the budget to reduce expenditures and enhance revenues.

Shinwari said that economic development of underprivileged provinces was completely ignored in the budget, especially small traders and SMEs. Imposition of Rs30 per litre tax on petroleum products will bring a new wave of price hike in the country, which will not only suffer the country’s economy, but will also make things out of the purchasing power of the common man, he said.

He expressed fear that next elected government might reject the budget proposed for the next financial year, as there is no guarantee that mini budget would not be introduced after the presentation of the fiscal budget 2018-19, he added.

The chamber president also expressed apprehension over announcement of Rs100 billion for Federally-Administered Tribal Areas, which, he said, showed that process to merger of Fata with KP was stopped. He said that the announcement of package for Fata will neither bring economic development nor ensure better employment opportunities to tribal people.