National Assembly passes Finance Bill

ISLAMABAD (June 15 2003) : The National Assembly on Saturday passed the Finance Bill 2003, incorporating an outlay of Rs 805.2 billion for the next financial year (2003-04) within a week of its presentation on June 7.

The budget provides Rs 160 billion for public sector development programme (PSDP), including Rs 113 billion for federal government and Rs 47 billion for provinces.

The current expenditures amount to Rs 645.2 billion, including Rs 160 billion for defence.

The budget deficit amounts to Rs 179 billion (at 4 percent of GDP).

Rs 185 billion has been allocated for social sector and poverty related programmes, against Rs 161 allocated in the current year.

On the revenue side, the tax collection target has been set at Rs 510 billion, of which direct taxes are envisaged at Rs 161.1 billion and indirect taxes at Rs 348.9 billion.

The House adopted some amendments in the Finance Bill moved by the Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz while he was winding up the general debate on Friday.

The whole exercise was completed in a record time mainly because of opposition's boycott which provided a god-sent opportunity to the treasury benches to rush through the budget in the assembly whose daily proceedings were marked with vociferous protests of the Opposition before their walk-out from the house.

It was for the first time that the Budget 2003 was discussed in the Senate only virtually by the treasury benches.

But their proposals, it appears, did not receive full consideration in the Lower House.

Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz approved only one of its proposal–to restore exemption of withholding tax on investment in NSS of Rs 150,000 or less. Other proposals, as the Finance Minister told the House, would be sent to the concerned ministries for their consideration.

Commenting on Senate recommendations, the Finance Minister said its proposal regarding withholding tax on national savings schemes has been incorporated.

However, a number of MNAs, rising on points of order pointed out that serious consideration should have been given to Senate proposals.

The members included Ahmed Alam Anwar, Ameen Aslam and some others.

However, the Minister for Labour and Manpower, Abdul Sattar Laleka and Minister for Industries, Liaquat Ali Jatoi, repeated the argument that these were just recommendations and were incorporated either in the Finance Bill or sent to the concerned Ministries.

Speaker Amir Hussain also observed that the Senate had made useful recommendations.

Since these were either included in the Finance Bill or sent to the Ministries concerned, the National Assembly exercised its power in the voting.

Earlier, the Minister for Water and Power, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, clarified that there was no ban on provision of electricity connections to tube-wells as promotion of agriculture is an area of priority.

He was responding to a call-attention notice by Muhammad Ajmal Khan, Amanullah Khan, Dr Junaid Mumtaz Joya, Bilal Ejaz and Ahmed Khan Sihar regarding non-provision of connection to tube-wells in Dipalpur in District Okara.

Sherpao said that about 5,500 tube-wells were to be provided connections June 30. Of these, 4,500 have already been energised.

He said that, as compared to this, only 2,300 tube-wells were provided connections last year.

He said the Prime Minister has directed to provide maximum connections for tube-wells and applications for this purpose are being given top priority.

As for the connections in Dipalpur, he said that 120 tube-wells have already been given electricity this year and 97 more will get this facility by June 30.

He said that 351 applications are under process and after completion of necessary estimates and depositing of demand money, connection will be provided to these applicants as well.

In reply to a question by Ahmed Alam Anwar, the Water and Power Minister said that Wapda is taking steps for the reactivation of 100 Scarp (Salinity Control and Reclamation Project) tube-wells in Rahimyar Khan district.

Sherpao assured a questioner that tube-well connections would be given on priority basis so that rice crop is not affected by water shortage.

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