ISLAMABAD: A lacklustre debate on the proposed federal budget for the next financial year continued in the National Assembly for a second consecutive day on Thursday, with members from both treasury and opposition benches mostly delivering routine speeches following their respective party lines.
Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah resumed his unfinished speech in the presence of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in which he lashed out at the government’s economic policies, terming them disastrous for the country.
Mr Shah feared that the country might have to compromise on its sovereignty at the international level due to “weak and failed policies” of the rulers. He said the opposition had rejected the budget considering it “illegal and unconstitutional”, but they were taking part in the debate only to bring their viewpoint on record.
Khursheed Shah describes government’s economic policies as disastrous for country
Throughout the opposition leader’s speech, the prime minister was seen talking to the ministers sitting in the front rows and exchanging greetings with the members. Mr Abbasi left the house as soon as Mr Shah took his seat after delivering a more than three-hour-long speech.
Ridiculing the government’s claim regarding elimination of loadshedding from the country, he challenged the treasury members to declare on oath that loadshedding had ended in their areas.
Mr Shah recalled that in the 2013 election manifesto, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had promised that after coming to power, it would convert loss-making entities into profit-earning institutions. However, he alleged that the institutions which were facing Rs400 billion losses in 2013 were now facing a loss of Rs1,200bn.
The opposition leader also warned against depleting foreign exchange reserves, claiming that the reserves had come down from $23bn in 2015-16 to $17bn in 2018. He said the government had provided a Rs184bn relief in taxes, but at the same time it had imposed new taxes worth Rs400bn.
Pointing to the empty chairs, Mr Shah said that the prime minister had himself directed the members to attend the assembly session, but no one paid heed to it.
The most hard-hitting speech of the day was made by Asad Umar of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). The MNA from Islamabad criticised the government for its decision to present the budget through a non-elected man. He alleged that the budget was not based on facts and advised newly appointed Finance Minister Miftah Ismail to “at least speak the truth”.
Mr Umar regretted that circular debt had crossed Rs500bn mark, but it had no mention in the budget and the Economic Survey. He said the government had been making tall claims about ending loadshedding whereas the data showed the electricity shortfall was 7,000 megawatts in 2013 and it was again at the same level in 2018 despite the huge fanfare by the rulers on the openings of power projects.
Qaiser Sheikh of the ruling PML-N praised the government for presenting a “tax-free budget”. He also lauded the government for providing relief to the salaried class taxpayers.
Naeema Kishwar of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl targeted the PTI in her speech, saying that its government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was still undecided about presenting the provincial budget.
Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2018