High priority on fiscal consolidation: Miftah

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said on Saturday that fiscal consolidation is the first and main priority of the government which requires tough decisions to deal with the difficult economic situation.

Addressing a post-budget press conference with Minister of State for Finance and Revenue Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha and others, the finance minister said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is pleased with the relief from personal income tax (PIT) to Rs100,000 or Income category of Rs20,000 of the salaried class. However, he said he would negotiate with the Fund, adding that the government’s first and main priority was fiscal consolidation before moving on to growth.

He said he had not seen a tougher time in the past 30 years and said that in the face of global challenges, nothing had been done by the previous administration. As if the administrative affairs of the country do not improve then it is difficult to run the country. He lamented that $2.4 billion worth of gas was wasted in the air. We cannot incur expenses that we cannot afford, he added.

The Minister said that a subsidy of 400 billion rupees had been given to the gas sector and more than 1,100 billion rupees to the electricity sector in the current financial year and added that more than 20 % of gas in SSGCL is from UfG, while gas sector circular debt exceeds Rs 1.4 trillion.

Budget focused on fiscal consolidation and maintaining growth: Miftah Ismail

He further said that the high price of electricity despite the subsidies provided has been the mismanagement of the sector as transmission and distribution have remained neglected over the past four years.

The finance minister said that while the previous government of Punjab had promised to supply gas to export-oriented industries, the federal government would honor the commitment to allow it to compete with countries in the region that get cheaper gas .

He said that there was no choice before the current government but to make difficult decisions and that this budget was prepared in this context and that the budget deficit should be reduced to 4.9% for the next fiscal year and that the federal government would be left with nothing after debt service from the total revenue collection of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). He said that out of the total tax revenue of 7 trillion rupees planned for the next financial year, 4 trillion rupees would be transferred to the provinces. Ismail said 2.5 million traders will be taxed this year. The finance minister said efforts were made in the budget to get more shares from the rich and relieve the people, he added.

Speaking on the occasion, State Finance Minister Aisha Ghaus Pasha said that the budget adopted a strategy of reducing the burden on the people and contains many measures in this regard. She said that to face the challenge of inflation, the government did not impose any indirect taxes and provided subsidies to the low-income segment. However, she said inflation was all over the world due to the super cycle of price increases in the international market. The Minister said that the BISP allowance has been increased to relieve the population.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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