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The Senate resumed its session in Islamabad today with Chairman Raza Rabbani in the Chair.

Chairman Standing Committee on National Health services Sajjad Hussain Turi presented before the house report of the Committee on Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (Amendment) bill 2017.

The Chair and opposition members expressed concerns over the absence of Finance Ministry's officials in the gallery. They pointed out  that the House is about to begin debate on the Finance bill 2017-18 but neither the finance minister nor relevant officials from the ministry are present in the House to take note of their recommendations. They said the government is not taking the upper house seriously.

Responding to the concerns, Minster for Law Zahid Hamid rejected the impression that the government is not taking the House seriously. He said that we value the recommendations of the House and in the last budget many of the recommendations of the House on the budget were accepted.

Later the Chair temporarily adjourned the proceedings of the House.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has urged the provincial governments to show open heartedness for making space from the gross divisible pool for the development of Azad Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and FATA.

Speaking in the Senate on Monday, he said that a meeting will be held with the provincial chief ministers after the passage of the budget on the matter. He said that revenue collection has increased significantly over the last few years and share from the divisible pool for tribal areas, AJK and Gilgit Baltistan will not affect the allocations for the federating units.

The finance minister assured that good recommendations of the house on the next budget will be fully accommodated. He reminded that more than eighty recommendations of the house were accommodated last year. He also assured that the finance ministry's teams led by joint secretaries will sit in the galleries and take the notes of recommendations.

Later the house began discussion on the finance bill 2017-18.

Initiating the debate Saleem Mandviwala congratulated the Finance Minister for presenting the fifth consecutive budget. He, however, said that the budget carries nothing for the common man. He described ten percent increase in salaries and pensions meager saying it has become difficult for the people to make both ends meet. He said his party, in the shadow budget, has proposed twenty five percent increase in salaries and pensions. He said the government will have to give serious consideration to uplift the export sector. He pointed out that our exports have declined to twenty billion dollars from twenty five billion dollars over the last four years while those of Bangladesh and Vietnam doubled during this period.

Chaudhry Tanvir described the budget for next fiscal year as positive. He said the present government has put the country on the path of sustainable development. He said that world financial institutions are now appreciating the gains made by the country over the last four years. He proposed that the parliamentarians should be involved in the budget making process.

Making a policy statement in the house today on development expenditures, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said that infrastructure, energy and human resource development have been given priority in the new PSDP which amounts to historic one trillion rupees.

He said that four hundred and eleven billion rupees have been allocated for infrastructure and four hundred and four billion rupees for energy sector. He said in the past these two sectors were ignored which hampered the economic growth of the country. He said that investment in these sectors will help remove bottlenecks to the growth.

The Minister said that the government has also enhanced the budget of higher education commission to 35.5 Billion rupees which was 12 billion rupees in 2012-13. He said massive investment is being made in the higher education in order to equip our youth with necessary skills. He said that university campuses will be established  in all the districts in the next two years. We have also started a new program titled US Pakistan knowledge corridor under which ten thousand youth will be sent to the US in the next ten years to acquire doctorate degrees in different disciplines. These PHDs will serve as a big asset for the country on their return. He said that a program has also been started under which one hundred thousand youth will be imparted software training.

Ahsan Iqbal said that priority is also being given to the climate change and steps are being taken to the revolutionize the weather forecasting system.

He said that 180 billion rupees have been allocated for the completion of different projects under the CPEC. He said that 38 billion rupees have been set aside for the completion of the Western Root of the CPEC. This project will be completed by next year.

Giving the breakdown of the projects being executed in different provinces, the minister said that the federal government is sponsoring Metro bus project in Karachi at the cost of 24 billion rupees. He said that 9 billion rupees have also been allocated for a water supply scheme in Karachi.

He said the government believes in equal development of all the areas and for this purpose investing heavily on the development of backward areas. He said that the AJK development grant has been enhanced to 22 billion rupees from 12 billion rupees and Gilgit Baltistan's to 15 billion rupees from 10 billion rupees. He said that 90 billion rupees are being spent on the reconstruction of tribal areas.

Nouman Wazir Ali said that loss making institutions should be privatized.

He said that the planning commission should play a lead role in the development of backward areas and reduction of poverty.

He said that NADRA can play an important role in enhancing the tax ratio.

Sajjad Hussain Turi said adequate funds should be earmarked for the development of tribal areas in order to bring them at par with the developed areas of the country. He said the tribal areas should be given share in the NFC.

Azam Khan Swati said that reforms should be introduced in the FBR to enhance the revenue collection.

He said that a major portion of PSDP should be spent on exploiting the hydel potential of the country in order to produce cheap electricity.

The House will now meet tomorrow morning at 11.


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