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Senate recommends 145 changes to federal budget

June 12, 2012

ISLAMABAD, June 12: The Senate ended its lacklustre budget session on Tuesday by recommending 145 changes to the federal budget, all of them with consensus except five.

Surprisingly, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz ended its boycott of the session on its last day.

On the other hand, coalition partner Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) staged a token walkout over the killings in Karachi only to return to the house to table the recommendations to be sent to the National Assembly for consideration.

At the outset of the sitting, Senator Tahir Mashhadi of MQM speaking on a point of order drew the attention of the house towards the killings in Karachi over the past few days and lodged a strong protest against, what he alleged, failure of the authorities to control the situation.

The MQM senator said the killings had become an order of the day in the city where extortion mafia was still active and traders were being kidnapped for ransom.

He alleged that all this was happening under the protection of police.

The MQM senators then staged a token walkout to register their protest.

Chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance, Nasreen Jalil, presented the report containing 145 recommendations for its onward transmission to the National Assembly.

She said the committee had received 287 proposals from the senators, but dropped almost 50 per cent of them because of various reasons.

Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh in his brief winding up speech assured the house that the Senate proposals would be given “serious consideration” at the time of the approval of the budget.

PROPOSALS: The Senate through its recommendations suggested a number of steps to resolve the energy crisis such as settling circular debt and increase in allocation for the sector.

Terming the allocation of Rs182 billion for the energy sector “insufficient”, the senators suggested that at least Rs500 billion may be allocated to the sector through reducing non-development expenditure.

The Senate urged the federal government to only fund those projects under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) which fall in the federal legislative list.

“Projects that fall in the domain of local or provincial governments may not be funded from the PSDP and all such savings may be diverted towards the energy sector in order to reduce the loadshedding,” says a recommendation.

The senators want the federal government to create a single “energy ministry” by merging different ministries dealing with the same subject “in order to fast track actions against ongoing issues relating to energy.” Through a key recommendation, the members of the Senate demanded that incomes from all sources be brought under the tax net and the proposal pending before the Council of Common Interests with regard to uniform tax on agriculture income may be finalised. The senators proposed to the government that it should take immediate measures to stop “grey traffic” in the country to ensure outstanding receipt of Rs75 billion from the UAE-based Etisalat company that had taken over the PTCL.