Pak opposition leaders criticise fiscal 2017-18 budget

Islamabad [Pakistan], May 27 : The opposition in Pakistan unanimously condemned the recommendations of the fifth federal budget which was presented by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Friday in the National Assembly.

Criticising the recommendations laid forth in the budget, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's leader Asad Umar said this government is not farmer-friendly but it is an enemy of them.

He said Pakistan is buried under debt and cannot become free through this budget. Umar added that the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif led PML-N government took the same amount of loans within 45 months that the Pakistan People's Party government took during its five years' tenure.

Rejecting the fiscal budget for the year 2017-18, Muttahida Quami Movement-Pakistan chief Farooq Sattar dubbed the budget as 'status quo budget'.

Asserting that taxes have been piled up on the poor, Sattar called for a reduction in the ratio of sales tax from 17 percent to nine percent.

He added that the petroleum levy should also have been be ended along with sales tax. "There is nothing for the youth, women and non-Muslims in the current budget," the Dawn quoted the MQM-P chief, as saying.

Pakistan on Friday proposed to increase its defence budget to Rs. 920 billion, a hike of seven percent, during the government's federal budget announcement. Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar presented the fifth budget of incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government with an estimated outlay of Rs 4.75 trillion.

"The defence budget allocation for 2017-18 has been increased to Rs. 920 billion," the Express Tribune quoted Dar as saying. Apart from that, Rs180 billion have been allocated for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) related projects, even as the tensions with India have been increasing over the same.

Pakistan's National Assembly also proposed 31 new projects, including a new international airport, 200-bed hospital, 200MW power generation plant and a desalination plant in Gwadar port.

The Nawaz Sharif-led government has also allocated Rs. 45.6 billion for projects in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), Gilgit-Baltistan and FATA area. The finance minister said that the salaries of army officers have also been increased by 10 percent in addition to a 'special allowance' of over 10 percent on their income.

"Pensions of federal government employees and army personnel will be increased by 10 percent," Dar said.

Dar claimed that Pakistan would be one of the largest economies by 2020. "Just four years ago, this extraordinary turnaround would have seemed impossible," Dawn quoted Dar as saying.

"International observers are cognisant of Pakistan's successes, and Standard and Poor's, Moody's and Fitch have raised their ratings for the country," Dar claimed.

The proposed hike in defence budget comes in the wake of escalating tensions with India over ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) and the arrest of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.

Last year, Islamabad recorded a 5.28 percent GDP growth and the volume of its economy crossed USD 300 billion.

Source: ANI