Asad Umar irked over absenteeism as NA Standing Committee on Finance convenes session

Published July 4, 2019
PTI MNA Asad Umar said that the committee cannot dictate the Ministry of Finance and its role is to merely advise, recommend, and monitor. — Reuters/FIle
PTI MNA Asad Umar said that the committee cannot dictate the Ministry of Finance and its role is to merely advise, recommend, and monitor. — Reuters/FIle

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA Asad Umar expressed his displeasure on Thursday over the absence of government officials from a session of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance.

The committee, in protest, deferred according its approval for the passage of government bills, including the Foreign Exchange Regulation Amendment Bill, 2019, Anti Money Laundering Amendment Bill, 2019, and Asset Declaration Ordinance, 2019.

"We are postponing the passage of all government bills," remarked Asad Umar in vexation.

"If the government is not serious about these bills, then they should at least take us (committee members) seriously," he said.

Umar noted that the committee "cannot dictate to the Ministry of Finance" and its role is to merely "advise, recommend, and monitor".

On the side: Asad Umar's letter to the Prime Minister

In today's session, the committee members in attendance expressed grave concern over the rising inflation and requested a briefing on the increase in prices of cement, flour, sugar and airline tickets.

Umar expressed frustration over the fact that "there are billions of dollars stashed abroad which are not being brought back to the country," and that "despite not wanting to, the government has been forced to place an additional burden on the people".

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) subsequently briefed committee members on bank account records of overseas Pakistanis.

The board said that it had obtained data from 28 countries for 152,000 accounts. "These accounts contain $7.5 billion," the FBR officials said, before adding: "Of these, just 650 accounts account for $4.5 billion."

The officials, did clarify, however, that 60 per cent of these account holders had availed the tax amnesty scheme, to which Umar said: "In attempting to cracking down on such individuals, we were too late in introducing the tax amnesty scheme. If we had cracked down on them sooner, the scheme would have received a greater response from people."

The committee rejected the board's briefing and summoned the FBR chairman to give a detailed briefing on overseas accounts in the committee's next session.

New property rates

Committee member Faizullah Kamoka also raised his concerns regarding the new property rates announced by FBR.

"People have been left screaming over the property rates, which have been increased by 100 per cent," he said.

He warned that businesses will take a huge hit owing to this increase.

Member FBR Dr Hamid Ateeq Sarwar, who is tasked with overseeing policy changes, remarked that the board had not notified the new rates yet.

Sarwar said that the new schedule was devised following a market survey and the rates were fixed at 85 per cent of market value.

PML-N's Ayesha Ghous Pasha said that any revision in property rates was an administrative task which provinces should take independently.

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