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Govt putting Pakistan at stake for ‘mere $1bn’, says Shehbaz Sharif

Shehbaz assails govt's economic performance in NA

ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly (NA) Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday criticized the government for introducing ‘mini-budget’, saying that the government was “putting Pakistan at stake, for a mere $1 billion”.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president made these remarks on the floor of the NA as the House began a debate on the controversial Finance (Supplementary) Bill, generally known as the mini-budget.

The bill is one of the requirements Pakistan has to meet under the programme agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in July 2019. If passed, the legislation will pave the way for the disbursement of a $1bn tranche.

Shehbaz questioned how it was possible for the country to be an atomic power on one hand and be holding a begging bowl in the other. He said that $1 billion can be arranged mutually, “let’s talk about this issue in the House.”

“If the government decides to stand against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the public interest the Opposition will support it”, Shehbaz said, adding that the Opposition was ready to support the government if it rejects the  conditions put forth by the Fund.

He underlined that Pakistan was currently one of the most expensive countries of the world. Highlighting the “unnecessary taxes” in the supplementary finance bill, he said that countries are reducing taxes while the PTI government is imposing additional taxes.

The PML-N president said that the ruling PTI had drowned the country’s economy and was also endangering its security. He called on the government to withdraw the controversial finance bill. “We have our political differences but bring another bill and we will support that.”

Shahbaz further said, “I said earlier that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Today they the government have proved me right. Rome is burning and Nero is playing the fiddle.”

The Opposition cooperated with the ruling PTI government for removal from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list. However, “we were called thieves,” the Opposition leader said.

The PML-N leader told the House that it “wasn’t former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif or Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who stood on the container and said that if the power tariff is increased, then the prime minister of that time is a thief”. “This was said the current Prime Minister Imran Khan,” he aded.

Shehbaz highlighted that the government has proposed taxes on the export of machinery for charitable hospitals along with increasing taxes on exports of equipment used for treatment of TB and cancer patients.

He added that in the supplementary finance bill, the government has also proposed an increase in taxes on the export of raw material required for the production of medicines, “which will eventually increase the price of medicines in the country”.

Recalling the time when PML-N was in power, he said that during their tenure, the price of urea was Rs1,200 and today the price is around Rs3,700. Meanwhile, the price of DAP (diammonium phosphate) during PML-N’s tenure was Rs2,400, while currently the price is around Rs9,500.

“The government did not even lay a single brick for the construction of these long-promised houses,” he said, adding that the Opposition now “fears taking the name of Riyasat-e-Madinah”.

Shahbaz further added that the PTI leaders have “become a security risk for Pakistan.” “They have imposed taxes on bakery items, eggs, red chillies, and even formula milk; how can they claim that there will be no inflation,?” he questioned.

The Opposition leader underlined that Prime Minister Imran Khan “constantly speaks about the development of children in his speeches, however, his government has not even spared formula milk from being taxed.”

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