KARACHI: With the passage of Sindh Finance Bill, the provincial assembly on Friday passed a ‘tax-free’ budget of over Rs1.043 trillion for financial year 2017-18 with a deficit of Rs14.32 billion.

In the budget, priorities were given to rehabilitation of the existing infrastructure and development of basic facilities, besides education, health and law and order.

The total receipts include Rs627.3 billion federal transfers, Rs199.626 billion provincial receipts, Rs57.514 billion capital receipts; Rs70.067 billion others and Rs74.349 billion net public accounts and carried over plus miscellaneous came to Rs1,028.865 billion. The total expenditures have been estimated at Rs1,043.185 billion, including current expenditures of Rs666.474 billion, current capital expenditures of Rs32.643 billion and development expenditures of Rs344.067 billion. This shows a deficit of Rs14.32 billion.

Before adoption of the finance bill during general discussion, Leader of the House Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that no new tax was imposed in the budget as certain taxes were rationalised in the province.

However, Leader of the Opposition Khwaja Izharul Hasan said that the opposition rejected the budget as it was against the interest of people.

MQM Parliamentary Party leader Syed Sardar Ahmad said that because of price hike, people could not bear any more burden of any new tax and suggested the need for reducing indirect taxes to provide substantive relief to the people. Keeping in view the increase in wheat price to Rs48 per kg, he suggested to the government to introduce ration system for the less privileged sections of society so that they could get wheat flour, rice and pulses.

MQM lawmaker Dilwar Qureshi said that the budget indicated 93 per cent indirect taxes and only seven per cent direct taxes indicating that the burden of taxes was on common man.

PML-F legislator Nusrat Abbasi said the budget allocations must be utilised properly and tax collection system be improved to bring all the influential people into the tax net.

In the finance bill, two amendments were suggested but as these were not submitted two days back, the chief minister said that he did not have time to get legal opinion regarding the amendment and assured the movers that if they let the bill passed in its original form, after legal opinion, the amendment could be introduced in the next session of the assembly.

After withdrawal of the amendments, the finance bill was taken up clause by clause and after the third reading it was passed into law. Speaker and chief minister greeted all members of the house for passage of the budget.

The chief minister said it was the only assembly, where 100 members took part in the budget discussion.

After the speeches, Speaker Siraj Durrani read out the governor’s order for termination of the session sine die with the completion of business.

In the budget, besides law and order and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure, priority was given to the promotion of education as students from the next financial year would be rewarded Rs100,000 for securing A-1 grade in Intermediate and Matriculation exams.

“Rs750 million has been allocated for the purpose. Besides, endowment fund for colleges and universities was created for which Rs1 billion has been kept for 2017-18 for providing financial assistance to students and Rs1 billion has been kept for free registration and board examinations at all levels of education for students of public sector institutions,” he said.

In the finance bill, slight amendments were introduced to Stamp Act, Registration Act and Sindh Sales Tax Act with the objective to improve tax net. Besides, there is a proposal to rationalise rate of Sindh Sales Tax on Telecom Services, and bring it on a par with other provinces, by increasing it from 19 percent to 19.5 percent.

Before adoption of the finance bill, the house discussed cut motions submitted by the opposition against demand for grants. A total of 732 cut motions were submitted against 119 demands of the total 153 demands for grants. After consideration of three demands one by one which all were rejected by a majority vote when put to the house.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2017

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