ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the opposition’s amendments, the National Assembly on Saturday approved the Finance Bill for the year 2014-15 with total outlay of Rs 4.3 trillion with some amendments by the government.
The passage of the Finance Bill has successfully brought to an end the budgetary process started on June 3 with the budget speech of the finance minister at the National Assembly. The Finance Bill was moved by Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar and was passed by the House with majority in clause-by-clause reading. The bill now will go to the president for assent who will sign it into law making it will be applicable from July 1 2014. The House echoed with desk thumping as the House passed the budget in presence of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif who also witnessed the budget’s passage by the ruling benches.
The Senate had made 133 recommendations out of those the government accepted 57 and were incorporated in the federal budget fully or partially. Once signed into law, the bill will increase monthly stipend from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 billion for those receiving income support and number of families for the Benazir Income Support programme will be increased from 4.1 million to 5.3 million.
The crop insurance will be increased to 25 acres and prices of fertilizers will be reduced by Rs 300 per bag. The bill will also help reduce Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) to Rs 100 on power, zero on cement, Rs 150 on general industry, Rs 200 on captive power and zero on commercial sector. Though the PPP lawmakers totally oppose the imposition of GIDC, which they said injustices with smaller provinces Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, the gas producing provinces. The money will be collected and will be utilized by the federal government. However, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was of the view that the tax was introduced by the previous government and we just own it.
The government will also impose uniformed income tax of 4 percent on first class air travel and reduce sales tax on solvent extractors from 17 to 16 percent. The government will withdraw the exemptions of Rs103 billion under its endeavor for phased elimination of SROs aimed at favouring influential ones. The Finance Bill also provides a special package of Rs36 billion for all provinces out of that Balochsitan will get Rs 14 billion, Sindh Rs 8 billion, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Rs 4 billion, FATA Rs 4 billion, AJK Rs3 billion and Gilgit Baltistan Rs2 billion.
As part of the budgetary approval, the House has also approved demands for grants worth Rs2.6 trillion besides charged expenditures. Following the passage of the budget, the finance minister felicitated the National Assembly, Senate and the whole nation on approval of the budget saying the government was committed to take the country to its bright future as per vision of founder of the nation Quid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
He informed National Assembly that the country s foreign currency reserves had reached to $14.2 billion. He said that due to its prudent policies the government had managed to cross 14 billion mark and in future it would continue taking steps for further improving foreign currency reserves. The Federal Minister for Finance also claimed that load shedding would come to an end within three to four years with the addition 11,000 megawatts (MW) in the national grid through various power projects initiated by the government.
Rejecting opposition claim that power/gas theft has increased to maximum level during current government, Dar said a massive campaign has been launched to reduce gas and power theft. He also clarified that the Nandipur power generation project has generating 100 MW power and is functional. He said that provinces would be given Rs300 million more from federal divisible pool during the next financial year. Provinces were getting Rs200 billion more in the current year than the previous year, he added.
He said a transparent procedure has been adopted for new appointments in government departments and nepotism had been made impossible. Snubbing allegations against the laptop scheme, he said the country’s youth had been connected to the world’s leading libraries through 3G and 4G technology. The finance minister also said the government had paid a subsidy of Rs21 billion to keep oil prices at a minimum level. The minister said that work on the Metro Bus Service Project had been initiated with approval of Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC).
Opposition MNAs including Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, Syed Naveed Qamar Shah, Miss Shazia Mari, Ms. Nafisa Shah, Sahibzada Muhammad Yaqub, Sahibzada Tariq Ullah, Sher Akbar Khan and others termed the budget totally against the poor. They said people were taxed more through indirect taxation and the government is following regressive form of taxation, which impact mainly poor segment of the society.
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