Dar announces more relief for price-hike stricken employees

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Sophia Siddiqui

Islamabad—Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, while winding up general debate on federal budget 2016-17 in the National Assembly here on Friday, announced that Federal Government employees would get 10pc ad hoc increase in their salaries after merger of three ad hoc increases to the salaries from July 1st.
The upward revision in salaries comes in the backdrop of demands made by members during speeches on budget both in the National Assembly and Senate and also recommendation of the upper house to give 15pc hike in salaries in view of price-hike in the country.
The merger of two ad hoc increases of 10pc of 2013-14 and 2014-15 was announced in the budget speech of the Finance Minister and on Friday he announced merger of 7.5pc ad hoc increase of last year in the salary. “With this the overall increase in salaries of the Federal Government employees would come to about 13pc”, Dar claimed and added that this was much more than what was originally proposed.
Rates of compensation allowance in lieu of residential quarters for personnel of armed forces have also been increased. Allowance of Rs592 has been increased to Rs800; Rs900 to Rs1215; Rs1142 to Rs1542 and Rs1704 to Rs2300.
The Finance Minister told the National Assembly that a decision about increase in salary and allowances of parliamentarians would be taken after consultations with the Prime Minister on his return home after treatment abroad. “I share concern of members that salaries of MPs were even lower than those of members of the provincial assemblies”, he added.
Ishaq Dar also announced more incentives and relief for agriculture, dairy and IT and Telecom Sectors, over and above those contained in his budget speech.
Sales Tax on imported and local tractors has been reduced from the existing ten to five percent. Customs Duty on Harvesters and Planters has been waived off besides abolition of sales tax on laser land levellers.
Pesticides have been exempted from sales tax while GST on Urea fertilizer is being lowered from the existing 17 to 5pc.
The Finance Minister announced that relief and incentives being offered on fertilizer and other machinery related to agriculture would become effective as soon as the President gives his assent to the Finance Bill. He said the President is expected to do so on 22nd of this month.
Rate of Sales Tax on import of machinery and equipment for dairy sector has also been reduced from 17 to 5pc.
With a view to promoting high tech industry, customs duty on SIM cards and smart card manufacturers is being lowered from the existing 20 to 5pc.
Shariah compliant companies, approved by the State Bank, would get 2pc rebate in Income Tax in order to encourage Islamic banking in the country.
The Finance Minister said rate of withholding tax on cable operators in rural areas would be reduced.
He said FBR would not deduct tax from bank account of the tax payer until final decision of the appeal in the case.
Similarly, the decision of Alternate Dispute Resolution Committee would automatically become applicable if FBR does not take a decision within 90 days of the verdict by the committee.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said these and other measures announced earlier would make the budgetary proposals pro-growth.
He also responded to points raised by members during general debate on the budget. He dispelled the impression that the present Government resorted to more borrowing than past and pointed out that added only Rs4850 billion to the overall debt.
The Minister said except High Speed Diesel, GST on other POL product was less than what it was in March 2013.
He said the Government was laying due emphasis on hydel power generation and allocated Rs32 billion for Diamer Bhasha Dam; Rs61 billion for Neelum Jhelum project; Rs42 billion for Dassu and Rs16.5 billion for Tarbela Extension four project in the next budget. He said necessary focus is also being laid on CPEC especially its Western route.
The Minister said 100 billion rupees have been allocated for rehabilitation of TDPs. He also dispelled the impression that the budget focuses on projects for one province and pointed out that huge allocations have been made for infrastructure development and power generation in Sindh, a network of roads and development of Gwadar in Balochistan, health and infrastructure facilities in KPK and projects in different spheres of life in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
He told National Assembly that due to government’s prudent policies and good performance for the last three years the inflation has come down to less than three percent and the prices are stable. He said opposition’s criticism that there is price hike is against the facts.
The Minister said out of 139 recommendations of the Senate, 86 have been accepted totally, partially or in principle. out of total 139 recommendations.
He said fiscal deficit has brought down to 4.3pc from 8.2pc during the last three years and it will be decreased to 3.8pc in the next financial year.

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