Allocations for social safety net enhanced: Finance Adviser

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Adviser on Finance Hafeez Sheikh has said despite difficult economic situation, the government has enhanced allocations for protection of vulnerable segments of the society and development projects in the next year’s fiscal budget.

Flanked by Planning Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar and Minister of State for Finance Hammad Azhar, he was addressing a post budget news conference in Islamabad on Wednesday explaining further the details of federal budget 2019-20

Hafeez Sheikh said that we have doubled allocations for the social safety net in the budget. As compared to one hundred billion rupees of current fiscal year, we are allocating one hundred and ninety one billion rupees to protect the weak segments of the society.

The Adviser on Finance said two hundred and sixteen billion rupees have been earmarked in the budget as a subsidy for those electricity consumers using less than three hundred units per month. He said this subsidy is aimed at protecting the poor electricity consumers from the rise in power prices.

As regards the development budget, the adviser said that the annual development plan for the next fiscal year envisages allocation of nine hundred and fifty billion rupees as against the 550 billion rupees allocated for the current fiscal year.

He said this amount will be spent on the construction of infrastructure including roads and dams which will help create job opportunties for the youth. We have also announced separate packages both for Karachi and Balochistan.

Hafeez Sheikh said the new budget also aims to reach out to the poor districts including those in Balochistan as well as erstwhile FATA. He said one hundred and fifty two billion rupees have been earmarked for the development of tribal districts.

The Adviser said we are also giving subsidies to the private sector on the gas and electricity tariff besides they will be given loans as part of efforts to promote economic activity in the country.

The Adviser on Finance said the focus of new budget is to check fiscal and external deficits, adopt austerity measures and cut the expenditures of the government.

He pointed out that the expenditures of civilian government for the next fiscal year have substantially been reduced whilst the armed forces have also voluntariliy accepted freeze on their expenditures. He said this sends a positive message both to the world and the masses that the we are united on the matter.

Referring to the country’s debt, Hafeez Sheikh said we have also earmarked two thousand and nine hundred billion rupees for the payment of interest of loans taken by the previous governments. He said the present government has inherited debt burden of thirty one thousand billion rupees.

The Adviser said all out efforts will be made to achieve the big target of 5550 billion rupees revenue collection. He said different measures, including automation of tax payment system, have been introduced to improve efficiency of the tax collection system. He said a system is being developed to ensure that no one remains non-filer. Every person purchasing a car or property will have to become a filer.

Hafeez Sheikh explained that no change has been made in the tax on export industry. He said the industry selling its products within the country besides exporting them will have to pay tax. He said sales tax will be received at manufacturing level. He said 1655 lines of the imported raw material unavailable in the country will be exempted from Customs duty.

Hafeez Sheikh said salary of government and armed forces employees from grade one to 16 has been increased by ten percent, while the employees from grade 17 to 20 will receive five percent raise, and no increase has been given to the government servants of grade 21 and 22. He said slabs of income tax for government employees have been rationalized. He said the last government had exempted government employees earning 1.2 million rupees in a year from any tax, which was not rational.