Miftah Ismail says Pakistan is going through a ‘difficult phase’

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Finance Minister Miftah Ismail addresses the post budget press conference in Islamabad. -Geo News screenshot
  • MIftah Ismail speaks during a post budget press conference in Islamabad.
  • Defends the measures announced in the 2022-23 budget.
  • Said they had no choice but to make ‘tough’ decisions.

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said preparing the 2022-23 budget was the “hardest” thing to do as the country was going through a very critical phase and the government was aiming for “fiscal consolidation” and “ providing relief” to the masses during the next fiscal year.

Addressing the post-budget press conference in Islamabad today with Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Minister of State for Finance Aisha Ghaus Pasha, Miftah Ismail thanked his team for the excellent work that she accomplished by helping them formulate the 2022-23 budget.

He maintained that they had presented the budget when the country was going through a difficult period. He blamed the former government for not taking steps to address the issues.

Post-budget analysis: A respite for the poor?

The finance minister said they had no choice but to make tough decisions and added that ‘the focus of next year’s budget is fiscal consolidation and helping the masses’ .

In the current financial year, the finance minister said that the government has provided more than Rs 1.1 trillion in subsidies to the power sector. He argued that they should pay 500 billion rupees for the losses suffered by the power companies.

“This means that the Government of Pakistan gives Rs 16 per unit of grant,” he added.

“We produce 30 to 35 rupees per unit of electricity,” he said, saying they have the most efficient power generation plants in the world.

Bad administration, faulty rate setting system, transmission and distribution losses and other problems are the main reasons for the high rate of power generation, he added.

Rs 400 Billion Subsidy to Gas Sector

The Finance Minister said that a subsidy of Rs 400 billion had been given to the gas sector. He maintained that they would not let any factories be closed as they provide jobs for people.

The government faces losses in the gas sector, he said, adding that it is unclear whether the gas is stolen or evaporates.

“There is no choice left but tough decisions”

The finance minister has said that Pakistan is a nuclear power and needs to get the country’s economy back on track.

“In violation of the agreements signed with the IMF, the previous government gave fuel subsidies. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif took tough decisions for the good of the country. Now the country has been left with no choice but tough decisions.”

Miftah Ismail said that we have imposed additional taxes on wealthy people while efforts have been made to reduce personal income tax. He said that Pakistan is a worthy nuclear power state and we will have to correct the course of our economy.

Highlighting another “significant” development announced in the 2023 budget bill, Miftah Ismail said he has introduced a new dispute resolution mechanism to resolve cases involving the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

“Previously, FBR officials had the authority to decide who would head the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committees (ADRCs), but that has now been changed.”

Under the new mechanism, the FBR would select an arbitrator and the plaintiff would select one and these two candidates would select the third individual who would act as arbitrator.

“The decision will be based on the majority,” he said, adding that would help address concerns raised by the business community.

Referring to soaring palm oil prices in the international market, the Miftah Ismail said the Rs 20 billion package was granted to promote the cultivation of oilseeds. However, the finance minister admitted that commodity prices do not appear to be falling this year.

2.5 million traders will benefit from the tax net this year

The finance minister said they will bring 2.5 million traders into the tax net this year.

He maintained that the country will have a budget deficit of 4.598 billion rupees in the next financial year. He said debt servicing was estimated at Rs 3.95 trillion.

“Imran Khan and his team were incompetent, corrupt”

The finance minister said it was not his priority to bring charges against the former leaders.

“Imran Khan and his team were incompetent and embroiled in corruption,” he said, adding that they had borrowed more than any previous government.

He maintained that their first priority was to prevent the country from becoming Sri Lanka.

As part of the government’s efforts to mitigate the impact of rising fuel prices, deserving people will start receiving Rs 2,000 from June, he said.

In addition to this, the Finance Minister said that the Chief Minister of Punjab, Hamza Shahbaz has started the ‘Sasta Ataa Scheme’ to help the poor. He maintained that Sindh and KP governments will also provide wheat flour to the masses at cheaper rates.

In her address, Aisha Ghaus Pasha said that the government’s goal is to ensure economic stability and lead the country towards growth.

She said the philosophy of the budget in these trying times was to put the minimum burden on the common man. He said we are giving aid to the common man and that includes the cash amount of Rs 2000 to deserving families.

Aisha Ghaus Pasha said the subsidy was given to farmers to improve agricultural productivity and reduce the food import bill.

She said reducing the budget deficit and not imposing indirect taxes are anti-inflationary measures that have been taken to protect the poor.

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