Defence budget not increased to provide relief to masses: Qureshi

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"Although we are aware of the designs of India, but did not increase the [allocation for] defence expenditures," said foreign minister. — AFP/File
"Although we are aware of the designs of India, but did not increase the [allocation for] defence expenditures," said foreign minister. — AFP/File

MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Saturday that despite knowing the nefarious designs of India, no increase was made in Pakistan’s defence expenditures in the budget so that the masses should not be overburdened.

In a video statement issued in connection with the federal budget 2020-21, the foreign minister said the revenue target had been brought down to Rs800 billion because of disruption of the economy by coronavirus outbreak.

“Despite all odds, the budget is balanced, reasonable, positive and optimistic. Although we are aware of the designs of India, but did not increase the [allocation for] defence expenditures. Keeping in view the [country’s] financial condition, Pak Army cooperated a lot with us. We focused more on the communities and areas which are living below the poverty line. For this purpose, we have increased the amount allocated for Ehsaas Programme from Rs178bn to Rs208bn. Although, the health and education sectors are related to provinces, we also allocated a huge amount for these both sectors as well,” he said.

Regarding the opposition’s protest during the budget speech, he said its attitude was “non-serious”.

“The GDP deficit is Rs3,000bn. The budget has been presented in unusual circumstances as the coronavirus has jolted the world economy. There is a revenue deficit of Rs800bn. Our exports were increasing from July to March but they rapidly declined from March to June because of coronavirus,” he said.

Mr Qureshi regretted that because of the huge loans taken by the previous governments, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government had to spend a major chunk of the budget on debt servicing.

Giving credit to Prime Minister Imran Khan for championing the cause of underdeveloped countries by seeking debt relief, he said: “It is a matter of pleasure for me that G-20 and Paris Club granted some relaxations to us, while we are still want more concessions so that we could use the resources to provide employment and eradicate poverty.”

He said efforts were on to reform the Federal Board of Revenue, adding that automation of the tax system would result in improvement in tax collection, while it would also help reduce corruption as well.

He said a huge amount had also been allocated for the betterment of the agriculture sector and improving water resources.

“Rs10bn have been allocated for locust control, besides Rs50bn additional amount for the agriculture sector,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2020