ISLAMABAD- Finance Minister of Pakistan, Ishaq Dar has revealed major budget changes in the National Assembly. The changes would majorly include Rs.20 billion farm subsidy fund, withdrawal and reduction of some duties and an increase in the salaries of government employees.
Concluding the general discussion on the budget for 2015-2016 followed from a turbulent morning session where there was an opposition walkout, Mr. Dar pronounced the total acceptance of 20 and partial acceptance of 15 of the 92 non-binding recommendations suggested by the Senate.
According to him, 60 proposals have been accepted absolutely while the remaining 36 proposals cannot be executed instantly.
The minister indicated that many of the proposals accepted were just like those which have been presented by the members of lower house. Though he did not specify the upper house proposals considered or not considered.
The revised budget proposals incorporated a Rs.20 billion fund to provide subsidy to farmers on phosphatic and potash based fertilizer, the nonadjustable reduction in the General Sales Tax (GST) on pesticides from 17 percent to 7 percent, extension of the repayment period for loans granted for solar tube wells form 5 to 7 years, increased value of Produce Index Units for obtaining loans from Rs.3, 000 to Rs.4, 000, exemption of import of oil seeds for sowing from custom duty and sales tax.
The proposals also comprise an incentive package for Balochistan, incentives for mobile manufacturing units and increase in the salaries of the government employees from 7.5% to 11%( merging the ad hoc relief allowances of 2011 and 2012).
The Pakistani financial-cum-economic expert made feverish efforts to respond to opposition charges regarding the budget being pro-rich and anti-poor and cited examples on this behalf, claiming to have increased the allocation for the Benazir Income Support Program from Rs.97 billion to 102 billion. He also referred to the expansion of Baitul Maal charity and a crop insurance scheme and proclaimed that it was “pro-poor and not pro-rich budget”.
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