Mini budget presented by Ishaq Dar


ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday called for setting up a national commission to investigate the factors behind the “economic decline” in the country over the past four years, and reiterated his offer to political parties to prepare a national economic agenda, while presenting the IMF-dictated Finance (Supple­mentary) Bill, 2023, generally known as the mini-budget, in both houses of the parliament

During a 35-minute-long speech at the thinly-attended National Assembly session, a grim-faced finance minister blamed the previous PTI administration for the country’s economic woes, but said the present government was committed to implementing the agreement signed by the previous rulers with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), stating that “an agreement with the IMF is an agreement with the state and not with a government”.

Later, the finance minister also laid the finance bill before the Senate. Both the houses were then adjourned till Friday, when the government plans to get the bill passed through the National Assem­bly. Under the Constitution, a money bill is not required to be passed by the Senate, which can only give its recommendations, which are not binding on the lower house of parliament.

Speaking in the specially convened National Assembly, Mr Dar said that despite paying a heavy political price, the present ruling coalition had accepted the PTI government’s agreement with the IMF and also ensured its revival and implementation. “We believe that the state should have a preference over politics,” he said.

The opposition legislators gathered in front of the dais of the Senate chairman while some stood close to the finance minister as the sergeant-at-arms moved in between to avert any unpleasant situation.

Some of the opposition senators even tore apart the agenda copies and threw them up while the chair directed members to submit their proposals to the Senate Secretariat by Thursday morning.

Stressing the need for a “Charter of Economy”, he said all the political leaders should get together to play a role in strengthening the economy irrespective of their party affiliations.

“We should come together and compile a national economic agenda and implement it [regardless] of which government is in power […] but somehow I was not able to achieve this wish,” he said, recalling the speeches he had made as finance minister during the previous PML-N government.

Mr Dar claimed that the country was making progress in 2017-18 under the PML-N government, but all of a sudden, “an apolitical change was brought which crippled the successful and fully mandated government”.

“Then, in 2018, a selected government came into existence. For exposing the poor economic policies of the selected government, it is suffice to say that a country which had become the world’s 24th largest economy came down to 47th rank in 2022,” said Mr Dar.

“Through this house, I demand that a national commission should be formed to know the causes of the economic decline and to find out as to how and who had prepared this conspiracy against the country’s interests for which the nation is today paying a heavy price,” Mr Dar said.

The minister assured the House that the prime minister and his cabinet would adopt “simplicity” and the former would take the nation into confidence soon in this regard.

In the absence of Opposition Leader Raja Riaz, PTI dissident Noor Alam Khan took the floor and formally opened the debate. While presenting a comparison of the prices, Mr Khan said the prices of various commodities and items, including flour, sugar and fertilisers, were higher today than the prices during the previous govern­­ment of the PTI.

Lashing out at the government for the increase in power tariff, the PTI MNA from Peshawar regretted that the poor were paying the bills of the officers using free electricity.

He said Pakistan was a country where there were “only taxes and taxes, and no benefits”. “If you impose taxes, give some benefits too. We only remember the people when we go to seek votes. But you don’t remember them when you impose taxes,” he said while asking the government to present all the agreements with the IMF before the House.Later, when Jamaat-i-Islami MNA Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali pointed out the quorum, the speaker adjourned the sitting without even ordering a head count.

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