• Warns against making SBP answerable only to International Monetary Fund
• Government rejects claim about bringing mini-budget through ordinance

ISLAMABAD: Alleging that the government had signed a ‘document of financial surrender’ with the International Monetary Fund, the opposition in the Senate on Wednesday warned the former against making the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) answerable only to the IMF.

Speaking on a point of public importance in the house, former Senate chairman and PPP stalwart Mian Raza Rabbani claimed that the cabinet had in its recent meeting deferred consideration of a ‘mini-budget bill’ and wanted to decide with the IMF to enforce it through an ordinance.

He said the details of the agreement signed with the IMF had not been shared with either the public or parliament, but its fallout was visible in the form of a surge in power and gas tariff, besides increase in the prices of petrol and various other commodities.

Mr Rabbani said all the more dangerous was the government’s plan to amend the SBP autonomy act. He said that under the proposed amendment, the SBP would go out of the government’s jurisdiction and would not be answerable to it or parliament. “It [SBP] will only be answerable to the IMF.”

He regretted the attempts to make parliament irrelevant and said that be it a matter of national strategic importance or national economic decision, parliament was kept in the complete dark.

The PPP senator declared that the opposition would resist the moves to introduce a mini-budget and blindly follow the IMF dictates. He also referred to Article 77 of the Constitution which reads: “No tax shall be levied for the purposes of the federation except by or under the authority of Majlis-i-Shoora (parliament).”

Mr Rabbani said no meaningful discussion took place in parliament. He said when an agreement was reached with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, its details were promised to be shared within 10 days, but it had not been done so far. Likewise, he added, details of the agreement with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan were also yet to be shared.

Leader of the House in the Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem, in his response, refuted the reservations expressed by Senator Rabbani and wondered how the government could bring mini-budget through promulgation of ordinance when parliament was in session. He said the Senate would remain in session for a long period of time and “we should talk in the house on solid grounds”.

He said the cabinet did not discuss the mini-budget and when it would be introduced, its details would be made public and discussed in parliament as well.

Mr Waseem, while addressing Senator Rabbani, said the same was the case with the bill about State Bank of Pakistan. “Whether he [Raza Rabbani] has seen the document about this bill… Let the document come,” he said, adding that they should avoid talking on hypothesis.

He took a swipe at the opposition and said they should know about the circumstances that forced the government to avail the IMF programme, adding that the government was trying that less burden should be passed on to the masses while remaining within the IMF programme.

Mr Waseem blamed the previous government for pushing the country to the trap of debts. He said the PTI government had to return debts worth $55 billion and it had already returned $29bn over past three years while another over $12bn each would be returned this year and the next year.

He said the last PML-N government had returned only $27bn during its five-year tenure and blamed the “mismanagement” of the previous governments for the bad economic conditions of the country.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2021

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