The National Assembly today passed “The Finance Bill 2017” giving legal cover to the budgetary proposals for the next financial year. The House adopted a number of amendments proposed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Senators and MNAs during the debate. The new budget, with a total outlay of over 4,700 billion rupees, is aimed at to spur growth and development in the country. The provincial share in federal taxes is estimated at 2,384.2 billion rupees, which is 11.6 percent higher than the budget estimates of the outgoing fiscal year. The external receipts during next year are estimated at 837.8 billion rupees. Finance Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar says prudent economic policies initiated by the government will bring prosperity to the country.
Winding up debate on budget 2017-18 in National Assembly yesterday, he said that government has set six per cent growth rate for next year which is realistic and achievable. The Minister hoped we will achieve seven per cent GDP growth rate in 2018-19. Ishaq Dar said 75 budget proposals of the Senate have been accepted totally or partially out of total 276 while 147 suggestions have been forward to the planning division with favorable remarks. He said the government wants to complete National Finance Commission Award at the earliest in consultation with all the provinces.
Finance Minister said net debt to GDP has decreased from 60.23 per cent to 59.3 per cent. He said foreign debt of the country was 48.1 billion dollars in 2013 and now it is 41.9 billion dollars. He said the government is providing all necessary resources to the security forces for anti-terrorist operations across the country. He said rehabilitation of TDPs and reconstruction in Tribal Areas is also underway and for this purpose 90 billion rupees have been allocated in the next budget. Ishaq Dar said the government has decided to reduce sales tax and other duties for promotion of exports. He said a power subsidy of 22 billion rupees is being provided to industrial sector. About agriculture, the Finance Minister said interest rate on agriculture loans has been decreased from 14 percent to 9.9 percent, and ceiling of loan for small farmers has been enhanced to 75,000 rupees.
The Minister said the government has abolished sales tax on the diesel-run engines and duty on import of diesel engine parts has also been decreased from 20 to 3 percent, which will benefit small farmers. Ishaq Dar said several incentives have been given, including exemption of sales tax and tax-concession, to encourage Islamic banking in the country. He said double sales tax on Islamic banking products is being abolished. He said minimum labor wages have been enhanced to 15400 with the increase of 10 percent in the previous wages.
He said the concessions announced in the budget for services sector are being extended to IT-enabled services. Ishaq Dar said a special package is being prepared for entertainment industry and revival of drama and film industry. The National Assembly has approved 71 Demands for Grants relating to different ministries, divisions and departments for the next fiscal year. The Opposition did not move any cut motion of these demands for grants as they boycotted the House for not airing Opposition's speeches live on PTV. In his concluding remarks, the Finance Minister said five years economic vision of the government carries special features of self-sufficiency, poverty alleviation, food security and sustainable economic development. He said if we agree on an economic charter it will send a positive message to world and political change will not have any impact on future economic policies.
Taking floor of the National Assembly, Leader of Opposition Syed Khurshid Ahmad Shah said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should personally come to the Parliament and brief the House about his talks with Saudi leadership over the evolving situation in the Gulf region. He said Prime Minister should take Parliament into confidence over Pakistan's future foreign policy regarding Gulf countries and 35-member Islamic Military Alliance. Later, members belonging to opposition parties staged a walkout from the House to press their demand for live broadcast of speech of Leader of the Opposition on PTV.