ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi gave his ceremonial assent to the controversial Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2021 — generally known as the mini-budget — on Saturday, converting it into an act of the parliament and thus fulfilling one of the key conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The finance bill was among those 16 pieces of legislation that the PTI-led coalition government bulldozed through the National Assembly on Thursday amid an opposition uproar in the presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The approval of the Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2021, seeking withdrawal of exemption on taxes and duties on several items with an impact of about Rs350bn, as well as the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2021, granting autonomy to the central bank, is necessary to ensure that Pakistan’s sixth review of the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility gets cleared by the IMF’s executive board.
The IMF board meeting was earlier scheduled for Jan 12 to take a decision on the disbursement of about $1bn tranche, but it has now been rescheduled to the end of the month on the government’s request. Pakistan has so far received around $2bn under this facility.
According to an official announcement, Dr Alvi has assented to the finance bill under Article 75 of the Constitution. Under the said article, the president is bound to give his assent to a money bill within 10 days.
The president’s assent is ceremonial, as Article 75(4) of the Constitution reads: “No act of Majlis-i-Shoora (Parliament), and no provision in any such act, shall be invalid by reason only that some recommendation, previous sanction or consent required by the Constitution was not given if that Act was assented to in accordance with the Constitution.”
Talking to Dawn on Saturday, PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said the opposition would make every effort to block the SBP bill in the upper house of the parliament. She said the opposition could not allow this bill to be passed in its present form from the Senate.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2022