ISLAMABAD: The cabinet on Tuesday decided to present the budget for the upcoming financial year on June 11 and approved an additional revenue target of Rs1,400 billion.
The cabinet meeting, which was presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, also approved a proposal for award of capital punishment to those involved in child molestation in the wake of rising incidents of child abuse.
However, the meeting did not consider the proposal regarding the observance of Eid according to the recently developed Hijri calendar as had been announced by Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry. The minister had recently told a press conference that there was no need to have Ruet-i-Hilal Committee. The prime minister was of the opinion that the responsibility of sighting the crescent should continue to lie with the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee.
Firdous says cabinet approved surplus income generation under tax reforms
At the meeting, the cabinet was informed that Saudi Arabia had allocated an additional quota of 15,790 Pakistani pilgrims for Haj this year. The additional quota would be shared between the government and private tour operators at a 60:40 ratio.
The meeting was also apprised that Pakistan and the United Kingdom had recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on mutual legal assistance for sharing information of assets owned by Pakistanis in the UK.
Budget proposal approved
Asked about additional revenue target and its implication on prices, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told a press conference that the cabinet held a detailed discussion on budget 2019-20 for two-and-a-half hours. She said the cabinet approved additional revenue generation of Rs1,400 billion under tax reforms. It was reported that out of Rs1,400 billion additional revenue, additional taxes of over Rs700 billion would be levied on the nation.
The special assistant to the PM explained that out of 55.5 million bank account holders in the country, only a few hundred thousand people were paying taxes. Similarly, only 300 of the over 100,000 companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) were showing profit and paying taxes. “We have to put our house in order and comprehensive reforms are required in the FBR,” she insisted.
She said Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Hafeez Shaikh and his team presented in the meeting the budget strategy and policy document that was closely linked to ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) vision. She said the budget was prepared to steer the economy on to the path of stabilisation.
“Stabilisation of the economy, managing external deficit by decreasing imports, reduction of fiscal deficit through revenue mobilisation and expenditure control, setting the path for public debt reduction are our priorities,” she said, adding that special focus was accorded to how the government could protect the vulnerable segments of society in the budget.
She said the government’s main objective was to create a platform for growth as job opportunities were linked to growth and only when growth increased would job opportunities grow.
She said that the provincial governments played a central role in budget development due to the National Finance Commission (NFC) award. She added that a major chunk of the budget went to the provinces and the space had subsequently shrunk for the federal government to function. She said the way forward devised and put into action by the economic team had stabilised the value of rupee.
“Positive indicators have begun to emerge. The stock exchange has contributed and behaved positively and ultimately is making new records,” she claimed.
Auction of property
In reply to a question about efforts to bring back ex-minister Ishaq Dar, Dr Awan reiterated that hidden properties of Pakistanis would be exposed under the MoU signed with the UK government.
The meeting was informed that 31 abandoned properties would be auctioned to generate funds. “Of 31 properties, 17 were those which were confiscated by National Accountability Bureau from a grade 19 officer of ERRA worth over Rs1 billion,” she said.
Answering another query, she said Prime Minister Imran Khan had not been invited to the oath-taking ceremony of the recently re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendar Modi as the latter had run his election campaign on the basis of an anti-Pakistan narrative. “Had we invited Mr Modi to the swearing-in ceremony of PM Khan? So how they can invite Mr Khan to Mr Modi’s ceremony?” she remarked.
Dr Awan also slated leaders of the main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), particularly Maryam Nawaz for criticising PM Khan at a Yaum-i-Takbeer function in Lahore