ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi has summoned the Senate to meet on Tuesday (today) in order to allow the government to lay before it the controversial finance supplementary bill, generally known as mini-budget, which it had already presented in the National Assembly amid the opposition’s noisy protest, to meet certain conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
According to the 16-point agenda issued by the Senate Secretariat on Monday for the opening day sitting, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin will “lay before the Senate a copy of the money bill, the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2021, and move that the Senate may make recommendations, if any, to the National Assembly on the bill under Article 73 of the Constitution”.
The approval of the finance (supplementary) bill seeking to amend certain laws related to taxes and duties and the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2021 is necessary to ensure that Pakistan’s sixth review of the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility gets cleared by the IMF’s Executive Board which is scheduled to meet on January 12 to take a decision on the disbursement of about $1bn tranche.
The Senate had been prorogued on December 29, only a day before presentation of the two bills in the National Assembly. Interestingly, the government had also prorogued the National Assembly session only a day after the presentation of the bills, surprising everyone, including some treasury members, as there was an impression that the IMF had set January 12 deadline for Pakistan to get the two laws passed. Later, however, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry stated that the government had already approached the IMF, asking it to defer Pakistan’s review.
Speaking to reporters at the launching ceremony of Parliamentarians Tax Directory on Monday, Mr Tarin said he would be laying the finance (supplementary) bill before the Senate on Tuesday to fulfil the key constitutional requirement, adding that Pakistan’s review was still on the agenda of the IMF board’s meeting scheduled to be held on January 12.
Mr Tarin said the Senate could finalise its recommendations in four days and then the bill could be passed by the National Assembly. He, however, said there was no problem for the IMF if the approval of the bill was delayed for a few days.
The information minister had earlier expressed the hope that the finance bill would be passed by the assembly in the middle of January.
Article 73 of the Constitution deals with the “procedure with respect to money bills”, which are only required to be passed by the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. However, Article 73(1) states: “Notwithstanding anything contained in Article 70, a money bill shall originate in the National Assembly: provided that simultaneously when a money bill, including the finance bill containing the annual budget statement, is presented in the National Assembly, a copy thereof shall be transmitted to the Senate which may, within fourteen days, make recommendations thereon to the National Assembly.”
These recommendations, however, are not binding for the National Assembly and it can approve a money bill, even without considering it.
The government had tabled the two controversial bills in the National Assembly amid a noisy protest by a confused opposition whose members had attended the sitting without their senior leaders and apparently with no clear strategy.
Speaker Asad Qaider declared that the Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2021 would not be referred to the standing committee and it would be debated in the house, whereas he sent the bill seeking to provide “operational and financial autonomy” to the State Bank to the house committee concerned for a report.
The opposition members, who had earlier announced that they would block the government’s move to present the bills with full force, in their speeches accused the ruling PTI of surrendering the country’s economic sovereignty through these bills which, according to them, would cause more economic difficulties for the people who were already reeling under unprecedented price hike and unemployment.
Besides presentation of the money bill, the Senate will also take up four bills for the passage during its sitting on Tuesday. Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari will move the motion in the Senate seeking passage of the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Amendment) Bill 2021l, the National Commission on the Rights of Child (Amendment) Bill 2021, the Juvenile Justice System (Amendment) Bill 2021 and the Islamabad Capital Territory Child Protection (Amendment) Bill 2021.
Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2022