LAHORE: The federal government has done too little, too late in terms of creating fiscal space for the agriculture sector in its overhyped budget for financial year 2021-22, says Ahmad Jawad, former chief of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry Standing Committee on Agriculture.
Despite double-digit inflation and record growth in major agriculture crops in the last fiscal year, the government has offered just peanuts to the farming community in the 2021-22 budget, he says.
Mr Jawad adds that except the interest-free loan facility to farming families to help them purchase tractors and other agriculture machinery and Rs150,000 per crop interest-free loan to buy farm inputs, no worthwhile incentive has been included in the budget for the sector.
The Punjab Civil Secretariat Employees Coordination Council rejected the budget, calling it an ‘anti-government employee budget’ as it did not fulfill government’s commitment of merging ad hoc reliefs given during the past four years in regular salaries.
Coordination council chairman Chaudhry Sultan Gujjar and general secretary Chaudhry Shahid Mahmood said the federal government had given no relief to the government employees in its budget. They said the 10pc pay raise was just peanuts.
The coordination council members, Raja Shahid Ahmad, Chaudhry Ghulam Ghous, Sahib Khan and Karim Awan, demanded that the federal government should review the budget and merge ad hoc reliefs given during 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 in employees’ salaries.
The businessmen, industrialists, traders, independent economic researchers and policy experts gave a mixed response to the annual federal budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 and urged the government to ensure 100pc implementation on the budgetary allocations made for various sectors. However, most of them welcomed it.
According to the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), the budget turned out as a balanced one as most proposals of the chambers had been accepted.
“Reduction in regulatory duty will boost the competitiveness of the industrial sector as the Pakistani merchandise is facing problems in the international market due to high cost,” LCCI President Mian Tariq Misbah told a press conference on Friday.
He said the customs duty and additional custom on raw materials of the pharmaceutical industry were also reduced, which would reduce drug medicines.
The LCCI lauded the package for farmers and raise in development funds by 40pc as compared to the previous financial year. They said Rs118bn allocations for refunds to the exporters would solve their financial problems.
The Pakistan Textile Exporters Association also welcomed the budget.
“Enhancement of import-substitution by rationalising tariffs on industrial raw materials/intermediate goods, facilitating export-oriented manufacturing by reviewing the existing exemption regimes and export schemes, reduction/exemption of duties (CD, ACD & RD) on import of 589 goods falling under PCT codes, steps for ease of doing business, announcement of a new uniform export facilitation scheme under a phased out programme in the next two years, permission for the bond to bond transfer of goods through WeBOC (web-based one customs) without prior approval of the collector and continuation of all export facilitation policies, including Energy Package and DDT, are among the positive things of this budget,” the association’s secretary said.
The All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) termed the budget a step in the right direction, subject to implementation on the budget proposals announced in the parliament in letter and spirit.
Some traders, however, rejected the budget, claiming that it had nothing for them.
“None of our proposals was entertained in the budget,” All Pakistan Anjuman Tajiran (APAT) General Secretary Naeem Mir told this reporter.
He said while the traders were demanding reduction in the turnover tax up to 0.25pc, the government reduced this tax to 1.25pc on the traders/ shopkeepers having Rs100m to 250m annual turnovers.
The Institute for Policy Reforms (IPR) termed the budget a set of promises and added that was difficult to sift facts from its many claims.
Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2021