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Shehbaz declares mini-budget anti-people, says it should not be allowed to pass

11 Jan, 2022
Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif speaking in the National Assembly. Photo courtesy NA Twitter
Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif speaking in the National Assembly. Photo courtesy NA Twitter

ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif while criticising the government's plan to pass the mini-budget, declared the mini-budget anti-people, saying it should not be allowed to pass.

Speaking during the National Assembly session on Tuesday, he also lambasted the government for mismanaging the economy and said that signing a charter of economy that involves all political parties is the only way to resolve Pakistan's economic woes.

His remarks came as the House began a debate on the controversial Finance (Supplementary) Bill, generally known as the mini-budget, and is seen as a key condition ahead of the sixth review of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Extended Fund Facility (EFF).

"The opposition would keep opposing this callous government inside and outside the parliament," he said.

Shehbaz also declared the mini-budget anti-people, saying it should not be allowed to pass.

Responding to Shehbaz’s speech, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said it was regrettable to see people lecturing them on the economy who had actually ruined it during their tenure.

Umar said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was not interested in signing a charter of the economy when the party was in power. "PML-N left the economy in shambles and Pakistan is paying the price," he said.

The minister said that PML-N's leadership was involved in money laundering, adding that Shehbaz should bring his brother back from London who, he said, remains a convicted criminal in Pakistan.

"People in 2023 general election will choose Imran Khan as the Prime Minister," he declared.

Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the purpose of the mini-budget is to document the economy effectively, adding that if the country's wealth generation is not properly registered, it cannot raise tax collection.

The National Assembly (NA) session on Monday had deferred discussion on the Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2021 to focus on the Murree tragedy that resulted in at least 22 tourists losing their lives.

The session, chaired by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, was supposed to take up the Finance (Supplementary) Bill, seen as a key condition to revive the $6-billion EFF.

Last week, the IMF removed Pakistan’s agenda from the Executive Board calendar soon after it announced to take Sixth Review of the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) in its meeting scheduled for January 12.

When contacted, Ministry of Finance spokesperson Muzzammil Aslam, had told Business Recorder that January 12, 2022 was earlier given as a tentative date for the Fund Executive Board meeting on Pakistan.

However, the board will meet after the country has met prior conditions, which includes passage of the two bills.

On Monday, Pakistan's finance ministry confirmed that the IMF has agreed to its request to reschedule the sixth review of the $6-billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF), after earlier stating that it would be held on January 12.

Aslam, in his capacity as spokesperson of the Ministry of Finance, said that the Finance Division "officially requested the IMF to reschedule the meeting of the Board of Director for the approval of 6th review till end January".

Completion of the review would make available SDR 750 million (about $1,059 million), bringing total disbursements under the EFF to about $3,027 million.

Prior NA sessions

On December 31, the approval of the Finance (supplementary) Bill, 2021 and State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was again deferred after the National Assembly (NA) session was adjourned for an indefinite period.

The session commenced with Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri in chair. However, the session was only held for 12 minutes.

The session was adjourned a day after the opposition pointed out the quorum in the House. Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin had laid the bills.

The joint opposition staged a protest against the mini-budget and the bill, saying it is being done on dictation of the IMF.

Soon after National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser took up the agenda, the opposition parties objected to overextension of a bunch of ordinances, saying the constitution, as well as a verdict by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, categorically says a lapsed ordinance – whether it is lapsed by one day or more – cannot be extended.