KARACHI: Former prime minister and senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said on Sunday that the federal budget 2021-22 was only for the benefit of the rich as the working class and poor people would be bearing the brunt of new taxes worth Rs343 billion.

“This budget is an ‘ATM’ budget, which would provide benefits only to government’s ATMs,” Mr Abbasi said in a thinly veiled reference to the donors of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party.

Speaking at a press conference here in Karachi at the Muslim League House, he said there was nothing new in the next fiscal year’s budget as Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin made the same budget speech that he had delivered 12 years ago when he was the finance minister of the Pakistan Peoples Party-led federal government.

Mr Abbasi asked as to what measures the government was going to take to reduce inflation, electricity tariff as well as prices of sugar and flour.

Shahid Khaqan, Miftah Ismail raise several questions about budget

He said that the Imran Khan-led government had already imposed Rs1,200 billion taxes since coming to power and the budget for the next fiscal year contained additional taxes of Rs343bn.

He said that facts could not be changed by uttering lies. “You cannot increase the revenue just by selling assets.”

Alleging that the budget had been presented on the basis of wrong figures, he questioned the government’s claims of increasing the national income by 24 per cent even though it had failed to increase the income even by 20pc during the last three years.

He said that government’s estimates in previous years about income had proved wrong. He said that according to budget documents Rs265bn would be collected via indirect taxation and this would put an additional burden on the masses.

Accompanied by former finance minister Miftah Ismail, he said that the government was speaking of an income of Rs1.15 trillion without telling the source of this income.

He said that besides taxing oil, LNG and RLNG, the government had imposed a 17pc tax on machinery and was now talking about privatising two power plants set up during the tenure of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The PML-N leader said that currently the country’s total exports were less than that of 2018. The government had failed to increase exports despite massive rupee depreciation against the dollar.

He said that wheat flour was available for Rs35 per kilogram in 2018 but today it’s available for Rs80 a kilo and a further hike in its price was feared.

He said that sugar was available for Rs53 a kilo in 2018 and now the price of the commodity had reached Rs120 per kilogram; the government had further taxed it also. The prices of formula milk and dairy products would rise further due to the imposition of new taxes.

The former prime minister said that during the past three years the number of people living below the line of poverty had reached 20 million. The number of unemployed people in the country had also increased and around five million people were jobless during the three-year rule of PTI.

Speaking on the occasion, Miftah Ismail said that the government should have given tax exemption to the salaried class in the budget. He said that no previous government had included proceeds via privatisation in the head of revenue.

He said that electricity tariff would be further increased because of taxation on crude oil.

Senior PML-N leaders Nasiruddin Mehmood, Khawaja Tariq Nazeer and others were present on the occasion.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2021

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