PPP Senator and former deputy chairman of Senate Saleem Mandviwala briefs the media on the impact of the federal budget on people at Sindh House in Islamabad on Sunday.—Online
PPP Senator and former deputy chairman of Senate Saleem Mandviwala briefs the media on the impact of the federal budget on people at Sindh House in Islamabad on Sunday.—Online

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator and former Senate deputy chairman Saleem Mandviwala has termed the federal budget 2021-22 a “copy-paste” document like the previous budgets presented by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, saying the federal government had no role in it.

Speaking at a news conference here on Sunday, the PPP senator questioned how a government which did not even know how to collect taxes could make a budget?

He claimed that the budget had been presented without the approval of the federal cabinet.

Mr Mandviwala said that on the one hand the government claimed it had not imposed new taxes in the budget, but on the other, it had imposed Rs727 billion indirect taxes.

Mandviwala says Rs727bn indirect taxes have been imposed

He particularly criticised imposition of taxes on goods purchased online and crude oil. He was of the view that there should be no taxes on online shopping during the time of Covid-19 pandemic.

Imposition of 17 per cent sales tax on crude oil meant the price of oil would also go up further, he said, adding that gas and petrol were also expected to become more expensive because of the government move.

He feared that there could be an increase of up to Rs20 per litre in the levy on petrol which would have a direct impact on the poor people. He said the price of sugar had already reached Rs100 per kg and the government was collecting Rs7 GST per kg on it.

Mr Mandviwala said that Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin had admitted that the agreements signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were wrong. He said it was ironic that the IMF people were negotiating with the IMF people. He also claimed that Pakistan’s agenda had been dropped from the IMF’s board meeting.

The PPP senator said that there was no relief for the poor in the budget. He said in 2013, the country’s exports were up to $25 billion. Seven years had passed, but the governments had failed to increase exports he said. He was of the view that Pakistan had the potential of doing exports of $100bn, but for it a comprehensive planning was required. He said it was a matter of shame that the money being sent to the country by overseas Pakistanis was more than the country’s exports.

Mr Mandviwala regretted that three years had passed, but Pakistan was still in the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) against terrorism and there had been no improvement.

The PPP senator recalled that incumbent Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin had announced the last National Finance Commission (NFC) Award during the PPP’s tenure, but since then the NFC Award had not been finalised. He alleged that the Centre had not given Rs85bn share of Sindh which was an injustice. He regretted that only Rs12 billion had been allocated for the agriculture sector in the country.

He said the opposition would raise all these issues in the Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue. It may be recalled that the Senate’s finance committee is headed by opposition Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam’s (JUI-F) Senator Talha Mehmood.

Meanwhile, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a statement termed the budget “anti-people and cruel.”

Interestingly, when Mr Mandviwala claimed that the government had imposed over Rs700bn taxes, the PPP chairman said that over Rs400bn of taxes had been imposed on people in the budget.

The PPP chairman said that the PTI government had taxed every household item, utility, and service used by the people.

“Taxing every phone call, SMS, and internet in the budget and then taking it back after there is a backlash the next day is a proof that the government has no plan, and that it continues to muddle forward at the cost of the well-being of the people of Pakistan,” he said.

“The government is also afraid of the public reaction against the heavy taxes imposed on them,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2021

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