The National Assembly continues debate on federal budget

The National Assembly resumed its session in Islamabad on Tuesday with Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq in the chair. Dr Farooq Sattar termed the budget as traditional one. He said there should be some revolutionary steps in the budget to address the problems being faced by poor. He demanded withdrawal of taxes imposed on stationary and dairy products especially on milk. He pointed out that there is no progressive tax proposed in the budget for taking the country forward. Farooq Sattar said salary of government employees should have been increased by twenty percent. Similarly, there should be considerable increase in retired employee's pension and minimum wage should be fixed at twenty thousand rupees per month. He said National Action Plan's ownership should be transferred to the people. The MQM leader demanded more allocations of more funds for development of infrastructure in Karachi. Taking part in the debate, Asad Umar of PTI said unemployment and debts have increased during the last three years of the present government. He said investment has also decreased during this period. He pointed out that Pakistan Steel Mills has been closed for the last eight months and stressed the need for its revival. Asad Umar said taxes should be reduced on electricity and petroleum products to give relief to the people. He said government should launch new housing schemes for government employees to overcome housing shortage.  In his speech, Shaikh Rashid Ahmad said 4.71 percent GDP growth rate mentioned in the budget documents is not real one. He pointed out that only three hundred megawatt additional electricity has been added to the national grid in the last three years. He stressed the need for completing mother and child Hospital in Rawalpindi.  Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari praised the economic performance of the government. He said revenue collection has increased, fiscal deficit decreased and exchange rate has been stabilized due to steps taken by the government. He pointed out that that cost of production will be decreased as a result of decrease in prices of fertilizers and concession in electricity rate for farmers. He said farmers were encouraged with relief given to them in the budget. He said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a game changer project and it should not be politicized. Sahibzada Tariqullah said that government failed to achieve economic targets. He criticized new taxes proposed in the next year's budget.  He said re-survey of BISP beneficiaries should be carried out and dependence on loans be decreased. He emphasized for completion of Lowari Tunnel project. Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho said the PML-N government's 4th budget is high on promises and short on delivery. She said agriculture sector was affected badly due to Government policies which left negative impact on GDP growth. She alleged that due to increase in public debt, no sector can show growth.

Prices of only 177 medicines increase 

The Senate resumed its session in Islamabad on Tuesday with Mian Raza Rabbani in the chair. Minister of State for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar  responding to calling attention notice moved by Mian Muhammad Ateeq Sheikh, said prices of only those medicines were increased by eight percent whose raw material price witnessed an upsurge in recent times. She said the companies had applied to enhance the prices of 612 medicines but the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan approved increase in prices of only 177 medicines. The chair admitted for discussion an adjournment motion regarding re-verification of the CNICs of entire population. The motion was moved by Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar and others. The chair said that discussion on the motion will be held on Thursday.  Later, the House resumed discussion on the Finance Bill, 2016-17. Taking part in the debate, Usman Khan Kakar said all the federating units should be treated equally in terms of economic development. He said the new budget envisages no measures to address the problems faced by poor and disadvantaged segments of the society. Saeed Ghani said that development schemes of small provinces should be incorporated in the PSDP to remove their sense of deprivation. He said that concrete steps are required to revive the agriculture sector which is the backbone of our economy. Muhammad Zafarullah Khan Dhandla said the government has announced a farmer-friendly budget. He said reduction in the prices of fertilizers and increase in agri-loans will help bring improvement in the lives of farmers. He also appreciated the government for enhancing the budget of BISP from 40 billion rupees to 115 billion rupees in a span of three years. Shahi Syed said a proper mechanism should be evolved to check corruption in the country. Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini said that new water reservoirs should be built to meet the issue of water shortage as well as power outages. Sirajul Haq said budget 2016-17 is neither welfare nor development oriented. Speaking at the floor of the House, Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yusuf said it is because of the efforts of the present government that first of Ramazanul Mubarak is being observed on the same day across the country. He was confident that Eidul Fitr will also be observed on one day in the whole country

US firms ´increasingly unwelcome´ in China
The comments came as a survey of European firms said China´s slowing growth was matched by an "increasingly hostile," business environment. American companies are "questioning whether they are welcome in China", US treasury secretary Jack Lew told a meeting of CEOs on the sidelines of the Strategic and Economic dialogue.

Asia stocks hit five-week high  
Asian shares hit a five-week high on Tuesday after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said U.S. interest rate hikes are likely on the way, held back any reference to the timing. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.5 percent while Japan's Nikkei average firmed 0.2 percent. The Fed chief said last month's jobs report was "disappointing" and bears watching, though she gave a largely upbeat assessment of the U.S. economic outlook, warning against attaching too much significance to the payrolls data in isolation.

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Zahid Maqbool (Former President, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry): 

“The traders should reduce the prices of essential commodities during the holy month of Ramadan to provide benefits to the fasting Muslims. The incumbent government is making all out efforts to facilitate the people of the country and improving the economy. Many long term and short term projects have also been initiated by the government in this regard. Pakistan’s economy will have strengthened by 2018. Everyone has right to participate in post-budget debate including the traders. It takes 15 to 20 days to finalize the budget and some important points could be included after the final approval.”

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