Senator Raza Rabbani. — ONLINE Photo
ISLAMABAD: Senator Raza Rabbani, PPP’s parliamentary leader in the upper house of parliament, has called for withdrawal of increase in the general sales tax (GST) and for raising the minimum wages to Rs12,000 and salaries and pensions of government employees by up to 25 per cent of their basic pay.
Addressing a press conference here on Monday, along with Senators Sughra Imam, Saeed Ghani and Usman Saifullah, he said the government should place the budget of each ministry before the standing committee concerned at least six weeks before the budget session.
He admitted that the PPP had failed to do so during its government tenure.
“This is our party’s policy but we could not implement it because unfortunately we had supra-technocrat and imported finance minister,” Senator Rabbani said.
He also said that the 2013-14 budget contravened provincial autonomy and the 18th Amendment. He alleged that Rs115 billion had been secretly reserved for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s discretionary fund.
The senators said 25 recommendations had been presented to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance, one of which calls for placing before parliament of all budgetary proposals at a session to be held at least a month before budget’s announcement.
They said uncertain external revenues such as the anticipated revenue from auction of 3G license, Coalition Support Fund and outstanding dues from Etisalat should not be included in the receipt estimates of the budget.
They demanded withdrawal of or reduction in GST on milk products, including packed milk, saying it was a hygienic alternative to raw milk and an everyday consumption item for many households.
They said the 30 per cent expenditure cut for all ministries announced by the prime minister must be reflected in the budget books under their allocated current expenditures.
The PPP’s recommendations called for devising a comprehensive national policy for food security, agriculture and research and development. It said allocations for health and education projects which were the constitutional responsibility of the provinces should be dropped from the federal budget.
The PPP suggested that only those projects should be included in the Public Sector Development Programme that had undergone a pre-project economic appraisal, environmental impact assessment and cost benefit analysis.
The senators demanded that a block allocation of Rs115bn in the PSDP for development initiatives should not be included without specifying approved projects.
“Only approved projects should be included in the budget,” Senator Rabbani said.
He said distortions in the income tax regime must be rationalised, especially in the case of capital gains tax.
The PPP said all sections and clauses included into the Finance Bill which were not within the purview of a money bill should be dropped.
It said the federal excise duty levied on services should be withdrawn and the income support levy should either be withdrawn or introduced as a tax so that that revenue collected went to the federal divisible pool.
It also made recommendations regarding differential sales tax rates and suggested that amendments relating to imposition of sales tax on goods manufactured or produced in various districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas be withdrawn. “These areas are severely underdeveloped and disadvantaged so they need exemption from sales tax,” Senator Rabbani said.
The PPP demanded withdrawal of amendments to the income tax rates and opposed a proposal in the Finance Bill to allow the Federal Board of Revenue to get online access to central databases of banks.
“This provision should be withdrawn till reform of the FBR is fully achieved to ensure privacy and data integrity and to protect against coercion and corruption.”
The senators said the Finance Bill had proposed that the parameters for selection for audit through computer balloting by the FBR would remain confidential. “This is against the principle that the tax system should be fair, transparent and easy to understand.”