LAHORE, June 22: The government’s claim that no new tax has been levied in the 2009-10 budget was challenged by an opposition member during the debate on the financial plan for the next fiscal during the Punjab Assembly session here on Monday.
Except a few, most of the legislators who got opportunity to submit their suggestions preferred only commenting on the document. For the opposition, the budget proposals were ‘antipeople’ while the treasury members termed these ‘exemplary’.
Presenting statistics, PML-Q’s Mohsin Khan Leghari informed the house that tax had been enhanced manifold under several heads, besides the government had spent beyond its allocated limits last year.
He said Rs126 million were allocated for the Chief Minister’s Secretariat in the budget 2008-09, but the supplementary budget revealed the expenditures actually stood at Rs268 million. Similarly, Rs47 million were allocated for VIP flights, but Rs85 million were spent.
In the 2009-10 budget, Mr Leghari said, the government had increased tax collection target for agriculture income form last years’ Rs600 million to Rs1,100 million, on property from Rs500 million to Rs10,450 million, land revenue from 4,100 million to Rs5,060 million, excise from 1,300 to Rs1,450 million, sales tax from 3,120 million to 8,759 million, stamps from 6,400 million to Rs11,000 million, motor vehicle from Rs4,300 to Rs7,624 million, toll tax from Rs5,00 million to Rs1,100 million, building rent from Rs240,000 to Rs48million and entertainment from Rs15 million to Rs77 million.
“This shows how much increase the government has introduced in taxes in the current budget. The masses will eventually have to face the brunt of this increase in the from of direct or indirect taxes,” Leghari said.
He said the Shahbaz government could not honour the commitments it made in the previous budget. “Rs1 billion were allocated in the 2008-09 budget for providing houses to the poor. Besides it had planned to increase electricity generation by 350MW and also had to spend Rs200 million and Rs500 million for the welfare of brilliant students and teachers, respectively. Bus service was also planned for the students of seven districts. The constitution of price control boards also remained confined to papers.” Mr Leghari said the government in the last budget had also announced Rs2,000 million and Rs1,000 million subsidy on agriculture tube-wells and transport, respectively, but did not spent a penny for the purpose.
Out of Rs13,000 million subsidy announced on food items, the government paid only Rs1,935 million, he added.
Similarly, he said the government wrote off only Rs450 million loans of widows as against Rs1,000 million it had promised in the previous budget.
Moonis Elahi joined Mr Leghari in ‘exposing lavish spending’ of the PML-N government.
He said the chief minister’s secretariat had burdened the provincial exchequer with an additional Rs150 million. “Reducing the education budget by Rs10 billion and using the money for paying the chief minister’s plane and chopper flights bills and other expenses amounts to destroying the already fragile education sector in the province,” he commented.
The junior Elahi further said the Shahbaz government’s ‘antieducation’ policies had been resulting in decline in literacy and enrolment rates. He also criticised the government for using Zakat and Baitul Maal funds for his ‘Sasti Roti politics’.
He was of the view that subsidy on wheat should have been of fered instead of spending millions of rupees for the roti scheme which was aimed at ‘self promotion’.
He was also critical of the government for purchasing a fleet of luxury cars for ‘nonelected’ chairpersons of task forces against its much-trumpeted austerity campaign.
He said an amount of Rs35 million was allocated for the gifts and entertainment head last year, but the Shahbaz government had spent over Rs100 million, in stead.
Calling the budget an ‘incomplete financial document,’ Mr Elahi said: “It is report of the extravagant and whimsical expenses of the Shahbaz Raj.” Sagheera Islam of PPP said bureaucrats had prepared the budget and even Finance Minister Tanvir Ashraf Kaira was not consulted in the process. She suggested that the salary of the government employees should be increased up to at least 25 per cent.
Dr Faiza Asghar suggested upgrading of the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau to a department under a separate ministry. She said rehabilitation centres should be opened for mentally-retarded children in all districts of the province.
Senior Minister Raja Riaz responded that her suggestions would be given a serious thought.
The opposition members started passing remarks during the speech of ‘unification bloc’ head Dr Tahir Ali Javed who was all praise for Shahbaz Sharif and his policies.
PPP’s Azma Bokari alleged the Punjab government had not facilitated the blood camps the PPP had set up across the province to mark its slain chairperson Benazir Bhutto’s birthday.
Moeen Watto, Rahila Khadim Husain, Farah Deeba, Mehr Ijaz, Rana Munawar, Shagufta Shaikh, Rai Jamil, Khadeeja Omar and Rai Aslam Khan also spoke.