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Rs14,000 wage not enough to survive: Senate opposition

ISLAMABAD: Opposition lawmakers said in the Senate on Monday that the budget 2016-2017 lacked the vision to put the economy on a sound footing, adding that the announced minimum wage of Rs14,000 was not enough to make both ends meet, alleging the government had resorted to figure fudging on economic growth.

PTI’s parliamentary leader Senator Nauman Wazir Khattak questioned why the government had not worked out the toll tax with China, as some 55,000 containers would be playing on Pak roads at one time and this could generate dollars seven trillion for Pakistan.

The opposition came down hard on the government for its new budget even in the backdrop of the Panama Papers, said it failed to envisage a strategy to combat corruption and that not a passing remark was made to deal with this rampant menace.

Opposition senators rubbished the stock exchange as a barometer of economic betterment, dubbing the exchange as a gamble house, having nothing to do with the national economy. They grilled the government over the fall in electricity as compared to the last year, rejecting the government’s claim of adding hundreds of megawatts to the national grid.

On the contrary, the treasury members said the budget was a balanced one, keeping in view ground realities. They welcomed relief for the agriculture sector, insisting more could be done to ensure it reaches out to small growers.

The House initiated a budget debate on a motion moved by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on June 3 that the Senate may make recommendations to the National Assembly on the Finance Bill, 2016, containing the annual budget statement.

The Senate Chairman, Mian Raza Rabbani, ruled that all the items in the Federal Legislative List, Part-II, should be approved by the Council of Common Interests instead of the federal cabinet and that Article 172 should be made operational with regards to oil and gas sectors, making the Centre and the provinces 50 per cent share holders each.

PTI’s Senator Nauman Wazir contended that the economy would not be out of trouble with growth target fixed at 4.7 percent and referred to 12 percent growth, achieved by Macao and New Guinea, adding Pakistan had this much growth in the past and was achievable in future.

He wished taking corruption head on and said the government must strengthen and equip the FBR with more powers to meet this challenge, but absolutely nothing was done on this count.

The senator pointed out while the defence budget was Rs860 billion, Rs600 billion were to be eaten away by the loss-making state enterprises, but still the government had not given any strategy regarding them in the budget. He alleged the actual growth was 3.2 percent but the government fudged the figure to show it at Rs4.5 percent.

The senator questioned the government’s logic for not following the order of merit in power generation and going even for costly generation from Nandipur. He claimed the tax net could not be broadened in three years instead it had been squeezed. He complained even the trend of Benami accounts could be halted.

He wondered how the government would fulfill its promise of cheap electricity when it was not going for hydel power and nothing was allocated for the Munda Dam and a paltry allocation was made for the Diamer Bhasha Dam.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed of PML-Q told the government it could not pay attention to reform the FBR and devise a strategy to bring back the wealth stashed away abroad. He noted Nigeria announced two days back that it had brought back dollars 9 billion in a crackdown against corruption.

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