Opposition's threats ring hollow as FY22 budget sails through NA with majority vote

Published June 29, 2021
Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin speaks in the National Assembly on Tuesday. — Photo courtesy: NA of Pakistan Twitter
Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin speaks in the National Assembly on Tuesday. — Photo courtesy: NA of Pakistan Twitter

The National Assembly on Tuesday passed the budget for the new fiscal year with majority vote amid a dismal showing by the opposition.

Prime Minister Imran Khan was present for today's session, while former president Asif Ali Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari were also in attendance.

The Finance Bill 2021-22 was discussed clause by clause in the House. Amendments proposed by treasury members were accepted while those proposed by opposition members were rejected.

After the clause by clause reading was completed, a voice vote was conducted by the NA speaker and the budget was passed.

The opposition did not challenge the voice vote as they knew they did not have the required numbers.

The session was adjourned till Wednesday.

The government had already defeated the opposition earlier on a motion moved by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin for taking up the bill under consideration with a majority — 172-138 — vote.

Earlier, Tarin lashed out at the opposition for its criticism of the government. He said that only food inflation had increased during the PTI government's tenure and attributed this to the policies of past governments.

He said that the government was focusing on the agriculture sector which had been ignored in the past. "We are taking direct action, something that has never been done before," he thundered, adding that the government was forced to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) due to the fiscal deficit it inherited when it came into power.

He said that the government will go after willful tax defaulters, adding that it was necessary to enhance the tax to GDP ratio to 20 per cent.

The minister also dispelled the opposition's claims that indirect taxes had been imposed, adding that majority of Pakistan's trade sector was not under the tax net. "Consumers are paying it but we are not receiving it," he said, adding that the government will also focus on this.

PPP leader Syed Khursheed Shah criticised the budget because of the addition of a multitude of taxes prior to the finance minister presenting it in the NA.

He estimated that the government had proposed taxes collectively amounting to around Rs1,100-1,200 billion.

The budget failed to meet expectations, he regretted.

Shah added that a good budget ensured that people had food on their tables as "people's wellbeing is symbolic of a good economy".

The PPP leader also lamented that health and education sectors remained largely ignored in the budget this time around as well.

He particularly expressed concern over the fast population growth in the country, raising doubts that the government had any plan to meet with the demands of this fast growing population.

The rapid population growth is an "atom bomb in the making", he remarked, asking whether the finance minister considered this factor while devising the budget.

"We need to think of incentives to limit the population growth," and the federal government should address the issue, he stressed.

He further said the government had failed to provide any relief to farmers in the budget.

"Please make this budget a budget for the people," he implored.

Bilawal terms budget ‘unconstitutional, illegal’

Addressing the media after the session, Bilawal said termed the budget “unconstitutional and illegal”, saying he even began his earlier budget speech in the National Assembly with the same point.

“When you do not give NFC award to provinces, you are depriving them of their share,” he said.

He said that some MNAs of different opposition parties were not present in the session today, insisting they should have been there. “I had informed Shehbaz Sharif that all our MNAs will be present and I honoured my word,” Bilawal added, while pointing out the absence of some PML-N lawmakers from the session.

He also asked Shehbaz to bring a no-confidence against the speaker and maintained that the entire opposition should unite in this cause. “I think this parliament has lost the moral ground, and we need to register our protest.”

Bilawal also lashed out at the government, saying it didn’t allow him to speak in the parliament on the concluding day of the budget session. He lambasted the prime minister for failing to take all political parties into confidence on the Kashmir issue “due to his ego”.

He said leaders in the occupied Kashmir were meeting Modi, while our prime minister was not willing to speak to all stakeholders on the issue here.

The PPP chairperson also called upon the government to take all ministries into confidence regarding the Afghanistan situation. “Our history is attached to Afghanistan since 1980. A wrong policy was adopted then and we are still paying the price for it. Similarly, the decisions being taken on Afghanistan at the moment will have consequences for us for the next 30 years.”

Earlier this month, Shehbaz and Bilawal had rejected the budget and vowed to give a tough time to the government inside the parliament.

Bilawal had said at the time that he had decided to stand with the joint opposition on the issue of the passage of budget 2021-22.

"I have given votes of all my MNAs to Shehbaz Sharif and now he (Shehbaz) can use them as he liked," Bilawal said.

Shehbaz Sharif, on the other hand, had said the government had given inaccurate figures in the budget document, adding that the opposition would chalk out a strategy to bring a no-confidence motion against the government.

"With the help of the people, the opposition will not allow the budget to be passed by the parliament," he had added.

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