ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Asad Umar on Monday presented an amended finance bill for the year 2018-2019 on the floor of the National Assembly.
Addressing fellow parliamentarians, Umar said that the country is engulfed in a severe economic crisis, emphasising that the deficit can reach a mark of 7.2% if present conditions prevailed.
“Rupee depreciation has hit the common man most,” he added.
Finance Minister Umar stressed the importance of pulling the country out of its burden of debt and said that it is the new government’s top priority.
He said the import cover at present is less than two months, which may build pressure on the rupee.
There was a loss of Rs450 billion in the power sector in one year, Umar informed the NA. This loss can climb to Rs2,900 billion if not curbed.
He asked for recommendations of fellow parliamentarians and assured that they will be deliberated upon.
“Increasing employment, enhancing economic stability and supporting imports our top priority,” Umar said. “Circular debt has reached Rs1,200 billion. We will have to make tough decisions to cope with the current financial conditions.”
The finance chief also said that pension will increase by 10%
“Foreign loans have risen from Rs60 billion to Rs95 billion.”
Lamenting the current foreign debt, Umar explained that when rupee depreciates, the gas rates also fall simultaneously.
“It’s the time to take decisions.”
Recounting all the current hurdles the government has to face, Umar said that all steel mills have been shut down, all loans of the national flag carrier have to be paid by the federation, he stressed the input of the Parliament and said that it has to be deliberated whether we should continue this way or try to emerge out of this quicksand.
Umar said, “Improvement will not come from merely going to the IMF but it will come when there is employment, improvement in agriculture sector and increase in exports.”
He said they had to take a lot of measures to improve governance, electricity issues and gas issues.
“But for everything to take effect, it will take time.. and time is something we don’t have. Hence we have to take emergency measures.”
The minister said, “We have increased the burden on affluent people.”
Highlights of the revised Finance Bill
- Rs6-7 billion subsidy has been announced to protect farmers
- Rs4.5 billion is being released to construct 8,276 homes
- The minimum pension is being increased by at least 10%
- The export industry is being given a relief of Rs5 billion in regulatory duty
- A subsidy of Rs44 billion is being given to support textile industry
- Banking transactions other than cash by non-filers to be taxed at a higher 0.6% withholding tax
- Taxes on tobacco production have been increased
- High-end cell phones will have duty imposed on them
- Cars above 1800cc will have 20% duties imposed on them
- The tax exemption limit that had been increased from Rs400,000 to Rs1.2 million rupee is being maintained