Uproar in NA after ‘mini-budget’, SBP bill passed |Govt retains tax exemptions on laptops, solar panels, bread, milk: Tarin

Uproar in NA after ‘mini-budget’, SBP bill passed  |Govt retains tax exemptions on laptops, solar panels, bread, milk: Tarin

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Thursday pass the controversial Finance (Supplementary) Bill, generally known as the “mini-budget”, and the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2021 during an hours-long session amid fierce objection from the opposition benches.
The finance bill and the SBP bill, both tabled on December 30, are necessary to ensure that Pakistan’s sixth review of the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility gets cleared by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) executive board.
The session, which began shortly after 4pm, resumed under the chairmanship of NA Speaker Asad Qaiser. Prime Minister Imran Khan, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi were also in attendance.
PM Imran was welcomed by loud sloganeering from the opposition benches as treasury lawmakers thumped their desks to drown them out.
The government’s amendments to the proposed bill were approved by the NA. In addition, amendments to the finance bill were also moved by MQM MNA Kishwar Zahra, to which the finance minister replied that most of the demands had been accommodated. In response, the MQM MNA thanked the premier and the foreign minister and withdrew the amendments.
Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Shaukat Tarin said the government had decided not to withdraw exemptions of taxes on basic items such as bread, chapattis, sheermal, naans, vermicelli, buns, rusk, laptop and solar panels. Tier one retailers, restaurants, food chains and sweet shops will be taxed on the sale of these items.
A sales tax of 8.5 per cent will be imposed on 1,800 cc domestic and hybrid and domestic cars. A tax of 12.75pc will be imposed on 1,801 to 2,500 cc hybrid vehicles while imported electric vehicles will be taxed at 12.5pc.
Shortly after the session began, PPP’s Shazia Marri moved a motion recommending that the finance bill be circulated for public opinion under Rule 124 of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly so that it could be proven how “anti-people” it was. However, the motion was opposed by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin.
The opposition lawmakers also called for the House to debate the recommendations put forth by the Senate. Voting also took place on several amendments moved by the opposition to the finance bill that were subsequently rejected through a voice vote. The opposition demanded that a physical count be conducted for some of the amendments tabled by the opposition, including those by Mohsin Dawar and PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. However, the NA speaker refused under Rule 29 of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly.
A physical count was later conducted on the amendments moved by PPP’s Marri, with 168 lawmakers against it and 150 in favour of it.
Later, a physical count was conducted for a second time. The government was once again in majority and the amendments were rejected. Tarin said that the IMF had called for imposing a value-added tax when he had previously served as the finance minister. He also emphasised the need for documenting the economy, stating that people’s incomes were not being taxed because they didn’t fall under the tax net.
He added that some of the taxes in the mini-budget had been removed, informing the opposition that this was about “documentation not taxes”.
The finance minister said the opposition had claimed that the government was sacrificing the country’s economic sovereignty and national security. “But they went to the IMF approximately 13 times. Did they forfeit our economic sovereignty each time?” he asked.