ISLAMABAD: Both the houses of parliament are set to begin their winter sessions from Wednesday (today) as the government plans to present a “mini-budget” involving fiscal adjustments and expenditure cuts worth about Rs600 billion as part of an understanding with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and opposition parties vow to resist the move with full force.
The Ministry of Finance has already reportedly prepared the draft of the Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2021, but it is not part of the agenda of the National Assembly on the opening day as it is expected to be presented by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Shaukat Tarin after becoming full-fledged federal minister for finance following his election as senator on Monday on a seat vacated by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Senator Ayub Afridi from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
To compensate Mr Afridi over his sacrifice, Prime Minister Imran Khan has appointed him as his adviser on overseas Pakistanis which would allow him to participate in the Senate proceedings.
Mr Tarin is expected to take oath as senator on the opening day of the Senate session on Wednesday (today).
Proceedings of both houses of parliament begin today
The National Assembly Secretariat on Tuesday issued a 33-point agenda for Wednesday’s sitting which includes resolutions seeking extension of another 120 days in the life of six already promulgated ordinances, including the Elections (Third Amendment) Ordinance 2021, besides laying of the National Rahmatul-Lil-Aalameen Authority Ordinance, 2021 by federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood.
The government’s move to present the mini-budget is being described as the “prior action” that will pave the way for submission of Pakistan’s request to the IMF board for approval in the middle of January.
The board’s approval will ensure release of $1bn for the country. It has been reported that as part of the adjustments finalised, the government has decided to reduce spending under the Public Sector Development Programme by Rs200bn, with Rs50bn coming from a decrease in general government expenditure.
On the other hand, the government plans to earn another Rs350bn through withdrawal of certain tax exemptions.
Talking to reporters recently in Karachi, Shaukat Tarin had said that the government would not increase taxes in the supplementary budget it planned to introduce in the National Assembly, but certain exemptions would be withdrawn.
The opposition leaders belonging to two major parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — have already announced that they would not let the government pass the mini-budget.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif had in a statement earlier this month declared that passing the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government’s ‘mini-budget’ in parliament would be like “committing national suicide”.
Mr Sharif had said that a collective strategy would be devised by the joint opposition through a consensus to block and reject the mini-budget because it jeopardised the economic sovereignty of the country.
The opposition leader had said that all efforts would be made to “shake the conscience” of parliamentarians representing the government and its allies to save the country and its people from the “devastating effects” of mini-budget.
“The incumbent government has become a threat to national security. Trying to fix the crisis-hit economy with a mini-budget will be like treating cancer with aspirin. The government must resign, instead of further destroying the economy with such a disastrous mini-budget prepared by the IMF,” he had said.
According to sources, the opposition parties are planning to lodge a protest in parliament over the recent decision of the government to increase power tariff and shortage of gas for domestic consumers, particularly in Sindh.
Interestingly, a calling attention notice, which has been submitted by PTI MNA from Karachi Faheem Khan on the issue of “low gas pressure and non-provision of gas” to the residents of the city, is already on the agenda issued by the National Assembly Secretariat for the Wednesday’s sitting.
Besides this, a calling attention notice of PML-N members on the “unprecedented increase in the circular debt during the tenure of the incumbent government” is also part of the NA agenda. The calling attention notice would be moved by Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Ali Gohar Khan, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Chaudhry Faqir Ahmed and Romina Khurshid Alam of the PML-N.
The agenda shows that the government plans to seek extension of another 120 days in the life of the Federal Government Properties Management Authority Ordinance 2021, Elections (Third Amendment) Ordinance 2021, Public Properties (Removal of Encroachment) Ordinance 2021, Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Ordinance 2021, Public Private Partnership Authority (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 and Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (Amendment) Ordinance 2021.
Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2021