ISLAMABAD: Continuing debate on the federal budget for next fiscal year, Opposition Leader Khurshid Shah said that his party believes in the supremacy of democracy and the parliament. He said democracy guarantees the country’s sovereignty and integrity.

The opposition leader voiced concerns over increase in the petroleum levy saying it will badly affect the low income groups. He emphasized the need for enhancing the tax to GDP ratio and bringing the affluent class to the tax net. He said this will help reduce the burden of taxes on low income groups.

The opposition leader said Federal Board of Revenue is an important institution and proposed its chairman should be appointed through the parliament to improve its performance and efficiency.

Khurshid Shah pointed out that decreasing exports and dwindling foreign exchange reserves pose a challenge to the economy. He suggested all the political parties sit together and formulate a consensus economic policy to steer the country on the path of sustainable development. He said it is our collective responsibility to give such programs which strengthen the economy, its youth and the institutions. He said all the institutions should respect each other in order to take forward the country.

Participating in the budget debate, Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh of PML (N) said his party under the leadership of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has always pursued development oriented policies. He said we have presented a tax free budget besides income tax has been reduced substantially which will benefit the salaried class. He pointed out that economic indicators have improved significantly over the last five years. He said the present government has also contained the inflation rate below five percent. He said we need to bring value addition in products in order to bolster the country’s exports.

Disputing government’s figures regarding GDP growth and foreign investment, Asad Umar of PTI said the current tax system is further pushing the people into extreme poverty. He said direct tax has been reduced from 1.8 percent to 1.3 percent while the indirect taxes have been increased from 8.5 percent to 10.35 percent. He said high gas and power tariffs have reduced the productivity and competiveness of our industrial and agriculture sectors. As a result of which, Asad Umar said our trade deficit is burgeoning. He said agriculture is backbone of economy and small farmers should be given low interest loans.

Naeema Kishwar Khan appreciated the steps announced by the government in the budget for the development of agriculture and industrial sectors. She said it is also important to introduce an interest free banking and economic system in the country. She said special attention should be given to the reconstruction of tribal areas.

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