The Senate adopted 139 recommendations on Thursday regarding the Finance Bill 2016-17 for its incorporation in the budget for this financial year.
Earlier, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Saleem H Mandviwala, who is the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatisation, presented a report on the proposals for recommendations on the finance bill.
Later, he moved recommendations on the finance bill containing the annual budget statement.
According to the recommendations, 15 per cent pay and pensions of the government employees should be increased and at least 20 small dams should be constructed in the provinces to enable farmers to use water according to their needs. The services of all contractual employees appointed on disabled quota should be regularised all over the country.
A special conveyance allowance of Rs 10,000 should be given to the disabled federal government employees. The sales tax on the locally produced powder milk should be withdrawn.
A grant of disability hardship allowance should be given to disabled federal government employees equivalent to one running basic pay.
The Senate recommended constructing and distributing 100,000 low cost houses among the poor free of charge and same allocation of 100,000 houses per year should be made in the future budgets.
The Senate recommended the National Assembly that mid-year budget review should be made mandatory and should be done in the month of February in the parliament for purposeful discussion and input.
The recommendations further included that necessary amendments should be made in the finance bill to ensure corruption-free economy. The federal government should coordinate with the provinces to provide free education and health facilities to orphans and widows.
The government should allocate five per cent of the GDP to health and education facilities. No supplementary grant involving expenditure over and above 5 per cent of the amount sanctioned in the budget should be made without prior approval of the parliament.
A single energy ministry should be created by merging different federal ministries dealing with the energy subject to ensure fast track actions against the ongoing issues relating to energy.
Trade deficit should be reduced by increasing exports and decreasing import of luxury items so that import bill can be reduced to the maximum extent.
A Takaful should be introduced in agriculture sector as well as other sectors instead of insurance schemes.
A system may be evolved to whiten and regularise the black money and some incentives for the investors should be introduced. It is proposed that by receiving two per cent tax from the investors, the black money may be regularised.
The population census must be conducted besides allocating a fund for it. The minimum amount of Rs 14,000 should be implemented in letter and spirit. The delaying of National Finance Commission (NFC) Award is not in the best interest of the country. Goods and services tax (GST) should be rationalised to 12 per cent to decrease the burden on poor.
Strict measures and amendments should be brought by Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to find, expose and seize Benami (unidentified) properties. The Senate recommended strict punishment for non-filers.
It recommended that the FBR should introduce a simplified form for filing tax return for eligible users of prepaid mobile telephone services to enable them to get refund or credit of withholding tax paid by them on such services.
Balochistan should be exempted for import of farm machinery and tax exemption for a period of ten years. The farmers of Balochistan should be provided interest-free loans to convert tube wells to solar power. A supply chain project for milk and meat should be initiated in Balochistan.
The Senate recommended that Rs 21,000 billion is earmarked for Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) which is insufficient; therefore Rs 30,000 billion should be earmarked for FATA in the current budget. The taxes imposed on the people of FATA should be waived off owing to the destruction caused by war on terror. A housing scheme for FATA may be started to provide them shelter in retired life.
The existing disparity in the amount of pensions payable to old and new pensioners should be removed. All the pensioners should be treated equally.
It further recommended allocating Rs 2 billion for the revival of Karachi circular railway.
The Senate recommended allocating funds for producing 1000 MegaWatts solar, wind, gas and coal power projects in Quetta, Qila Abdullah, Pishin, Muslim Bagh, Qila Saifullah, Zhob, Sherani, Musakhail, Loralai, Ziarat and Harnai. At least Rs 20 billion should be allocated for Boston to Zhob DI Khan motorway and matching amount for Kuchlak to Zhob motorway on the western route of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
An amount of Rs 3000 million should be provided for masters leading to PhD scholarships under Aaghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan programme and Rs 100 billion should be allocated for construction of cold storages for preservation of fruits and vegetables in Balochistan.
The Senate recommended the National Assembly to incentivise the use of solar energy in the budget and promote the net metering policy for solar energy. The allocations for FATA University should be increased from Rs 250 to Rs 1000 million.
The Senate recommended introducing low capacity hydel projects in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and throughout the northern areas producing one, two, three, and four megawatts electricity to enable the locals to meet their requirements.
The PPP senator said the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics should be made independent so that the statistics regarding the budget should be prepared transparently.
He said the decline in domestic and foreign investment, export, agriculture production and industry performance have a significant impact on the country’s economy. Further loans are being taken to pay salaries of the government employees and to run the House, he added.
The Senator said the government should propose the annual expenditures in the budget keeping in view the total income.
He said the finance minister is a competent person and is well aware of the economic challenges being faced by the country.
The economy experts, he said, have rejected the budgetary proposals and statistics presented in the economic survey, adding that the country’s economy is going down.
He said the government should focus on local manufacturing, agriculture production and employment opportunities to boost the economy.
Mandviwala said the government should pay attention towards introducing housing schemes in the country to develop this sector. He added that direct taxation should also be focused rather than indirect taxes.