ISLAMABAD: Minister for Finance Syed Naveed Qamar has announced that starting from the new financial year expenditure part of the budget would be presented in the National Assembly in March to allow standing committees of the Parliament to debate those demands before presentation of the final budget in June. He was winding up general debate on the budget in the National Assembly on Thursday. He announced that all agricultural inputs would be zero rated and there will be no customs duty or sales tax on pesticides or raw phosphate used in local manufacture of phosphatic fertilizer.
The Finance Minister said under directions of the Prime Minister auctioning or physical harassment of loanees of small agricultural credits as well as small loanees of HBFC. He announced that crop insurance would be compulsory for crop loans with a view to protecting not only the farmers but also the banks. He said Benazir Income Support Programme would be completely transparent, non-intrusive and non-political as selection of the deserving families as well as disbursement of the amount would be through a transparent and criteria based mechanism.
About subsidy on wheat, the Finance Minister clarified that this was not meant for Pakistani farmers and its benefit went to farmers of the foreign countries. He said after withdrawal of the subsidy, the 2.5 million tons of wheat to be imported by the government would be sold on prevailing market rates. He said it is time we start subsidizing our own farmers by reducing the cost of production. He said it is in this backdrop that the government has increased subsidy on DAP fertilizer from 470 rupees to one thousand rupees per bag besides removal of sales tax on the commodity.
He said subsidy on oil and energy is not being removed but being reduced in a phased manner in the interest of the consumer and the economy. He said the government was examining the issue of margins of oil marketing companies and dealers as well as the issue of deemed duty and a decision would be taken that ensures striking a balance between interests of the consumer and the industry.
The Finance Minister announced reversal of the budgetary proposal regarding withdrawal of income tax exemption from philanthropic institutions. These institutions would continue to enjoy the tax exemptions as they were doing earlier. Syed Naveed Qamar clarified that R&D support for textile sector is not being discontinued. He however said the government was examining as to which sectors need to be supported to ensure growth of exports.
Referring to imposition of tax on import of mobile phones, the Finance minister said the country imports mobile phones worth 1.1 billion dollars annually and it is time that we start giving incentives for setting up of manufacturing plants for cellular phone sets in the country. The Minister said in deference to the demand of the Senate the government has already withdrawn six bills from the finance bill and was examining several others for possible withdrawal before passage of the Finance Bill.
He said the government has decided to give top priority to the power sector to overcome the power shortages and in this connection power plants would get the first priority in supply of fuel and gas. They will be followed by tubewells and textile and other industries. The Finance Minister said it has been decided to gradually transfer funds of various ministries and departments from commercial banks to the State Bank of Pakistan. Giving background of the decision, he said unutilized money for various projects remains deposited in commercial banks while the government has to borrow money from banks to meet its needs. He said the decision would help reduce the overall government borrowing.
The National Assembly Thursday began debate on the recommendations sent by the Senate for its incorporation in the budget. Taking part in the debate, the members said that these recommendations must be thoroughly considered and included in the budget. They were of the view that the Senate should also be given financial powers. Some members urged the government to announce new support prices for food crops before the sowing season to give incentives to the growers. They said that balanced subsidy should be given on all fertilizers to further reduce the prices of DAP fertilizer to achieve more production.
Furthermore The National Assembly Thursday approved one hundred and twenty-seven demands for grants pertaining to various ministries, divisions and departments to meet their expenditure during the next financial year. The ministries and organizations whose demands for grants have been cleared include ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Finance and Economic Affairs, Information and Broadcasting, Housing and Works, Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas, Labour and Manpower, Local Government and Rural Development, Minorities Affairs, Narcotics Control, Senate, National Assembly, Commerce, Culture, Statistics, Environment, Privatisation, Board of Investment, Ports and Shipping, Pakistan Railways, Religious Affairs, Science and Technology, States and Frontier Regions, Social Welfare and Special Education, FATA, Textile Industry, Tourism, Women Development, Youth Affairs, Communication, IT and Telecom, Law and Justice, Petroleum and Natural Resources and Population.
In all, there are one hundred and seventy-nine demands for grants and the remaining fifty-two relating to eight ministries would be taken up for discussion and approval tomorrow. The House will meet again tomorrow at 10 am.-SANA