NA session adjourned without holding vote on critical finance bill

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ISLAMABAD, FEB 17 (DNA) — The National Assembly session summoned to discuss Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2023 has been adjourned till Friday without holding a crucial vote on the bill that is necessary for unlocking stalled tranche of International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avert possible default in the face of critically low foreign exchange reserves.

The session will be resumed on Monday at 5pm.  Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday laid the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, 2023 before the lower house.   The bill also called mini-budget proposed taxation measures of 170 billion rupees to meet the understanding reached with the International Monetary Fund for the extended fund facility.

The bulk of tax measures worth Rs115bn was already implemented from Feb 14 through Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs) by hiking tax on cigarettes and raising general sales tax from 17% to 18%. The rest of the Rs55bn will be raised through measures proposed in the finance bill.

Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf presided over the session. The lawmakers lambasted government for increasing the burden on the poor by increasing taxes. During the NA session today, PPP’s Qadir Khan Mandokhail called upon the government to lower the burden on the poor and instead raise taxes on luxury cars and houses. He said that social media apps WhatsApp and Twitter should also be taxed.

MQM-P’s Salahuddin criticised Dar for being “non-serious” about the difficult conditions the country was facing. “If we are allied with you today, it is only to prevent default and lift the country out of the economic crisis.

He said the Parliament should be informed as to who is behind the current dire economic situation of the country. He recalled that the IMF agreement was signed by the previous government which then backtracked from it.  

GDA MNA Saira Bano also assailed government for the hike in taxes. She was of the view that it was impossible for common people to meet their essential needs due to inflation.

PTI MNA Mohammad Afzal Khan Dhandla emphasised the need to focus on agriculture and population control. He called for strengthening public transport and reducing car imports Meanwhile, the Senate has discussed the Finance Supplementary Bill, 2023.

Participating in the debate, Leader of the Opposition Dr. Shahzad Waseem demanded of the government to withdraw the Supplementary Finance Bill saying that it will add to the woes of the common man.

He said today inflation is already at the highest level of the history of the country. He said despite the financial crisis, the government is spending money on luxuries. The Leader of the Opposition said salaried people are suffering from price hike. He said even today Imran Khan is the only hope for the masses.

Two measures — raising the federal excise duty (FED) on cigarettes and increasing the general sales tax (GST) rate from 17 per cent to 18pc — have already been implemented through SROs. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) expects to generate Rs115bn from these two measures.

The finance bill also proposes increasing GST from 17pc to 25pc on 33 categories of goods covering 860 tariff lines — including high-end mobile phones, imported food, decoration items, and other luxury goods. However, this raise will be notified through another notification.

Other proposals include: Federal excise duty of 20pc of the airfare or Rs50,000 on first class and business class air tickets; 10pc withholding adjustable advance tax on the bills of wedding halls; increase in FED on cement from Rs1.5 to Rs2 per kg; Benazir Income Support Programme budget increased to Rs400bn from Rs360bn. — DNA