Senators urge govt to implement austerity steps

ISLAMABAD (APP): The opposition senators on Friday proposed the government to fully implement austerity measures and cut its expenditures to steer the country out of the economic crisis.
Taking part in the debate on the supplementary finance bill in the Senate, they opined that the government would have to take some bold decisions in a bid to put the national economy on the road to progress and prosperity. Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem expressed the apprehension that the measures proposed in the bill would further hike inflation in the country. The government should better adopt austerity measures to cope with burgeoning inflation and ailing economic conditions, besides reforming the tax collection department.
The Federal Board of Revenue had sought approval for the purchase of 155 luxury vehicles, he regretted. Dr Shahzad Waseem urged the government to continue the programmes initiated by the previous regime for the less privileged segments of society. He proposed fresh elections to get the country out of the prevailing economic crisis.
Jamaat-e-Islami’s Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan said there had been some tough conditions, which had been okayed by the International Monetary fund (IMF). The new steps would cause problems, particularly for the poor masses, which needed to be reviewed, he added. Currently, there was already high inflation in the country and the supplementary bill would further to the people’s problems, Senator Mushtaq said.
He called for reducing the number of Federal Cabinet members to 27, in addition to curtailing their perks, privileges, and protocol to ensure austerity in an effective manner. He also called for a full review of the bureaucratic set-up in order to avoid extra financial burden on the exchequer. He pointed out that approximately 200,000 vehicles were being used and maintained by the government departments, which eventually burdened the national kitty.
National Party’s Senator Muhammad Tahir Bizinjo stressed that all political parties should be united on one platform for devising a comprehensive economic policy. Curtailing the cabinet’s size and taking austerity measures were a must for a stable Pakistan, he added. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Senator Mohsin Aziz said as per budgetary documents, Rs 170 billion taxes proposed in the supplementary bill would be collected in four months, while its net effect would be Rs 510 billion by the end of the fiscal year.
He urged the government to take the Upper House of Parliament on board about the IMF agreements so that they could present their suggestions accordingly. Some 1.5 million people had been rendered jobless due to the economic crisis, he added. Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s Senator Kamil Ali Agha claimed that said it was not a budget to impose Rs 170 billion rather it would cost Rs 600 billion in nine months due to the hike in transportation charges.
He said the increase in the sales tax rate would directly affect poor people because it would be levied on the daily-use items. Awami National Party’s Senator Hidayatullah Khan disapproved the supplementary budget, saying it would further increase the financial burden on poor people. He proposed the government to reduce the size of the Federal Cabinet to 30. He also asked the government to control the expenses of local government administrators keeping in view their lavish lifestyles, including fringe benefits with cozy residences being availed by them.
PTI’s Senator Walid Iqbal also proposed a cut in the number of cabinet members. Independent Senator Hidayat Ullah highlighted the issues pertaining to Federal Administered Tribal Areas and said there must be a shadow government to chalk out a financial plan for the future as the general elections were a bit close. He opined that all political parties should unitedly work out a strategy to meet the economic challenges.