Islamabad: Chairman Pakistan peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, addressing a joint opposition press conference after a meeting of joint opposition in Islamabad on Sunday, said that this PTIMF budget is rejected by the entire opposition in the country as it is an anti-poor and anti-people budget.
Chairman PPP said that the PTI government has increased petroleum price even before the budget is passed and taxes have been more in this petrol prices increase than the actual cost of petrol. This is outright tyranny by the government.
Khawaja Asif of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said that there is no relief for the people in this budget and Imran Khan has become a burden on Pakistan.
Responding to questions by the media, the Chairman PPP said that he has been in contact with every opposition party. As soon as Shahbaz Sharif gets well, the All Parties’ Conference will take place next week to discuss other issues bothering the people of Pakistan. He said that Covid-19 should be controlled by the consultations of doctors and health experts but the PTI government is not doing so. Locust has destroyed the crops of growers. The opposition is united and has played a very constructive role. The country is in a very difficult situation due to the Prime Minister Imran Khan. He said that Imran Khan has put the health and life of the people in danger. He also said that the solution of the problems faced by Pakistan is only democracy.
The parties signed the joint statement are PPP, PML-N, ANP, QWP, JI, JUI-F, BNP-Mengal, PkMAP, NP, and Mohsin Dawar of PTM.
Following is the joint statement of Opposition.
We the members of the joint opposition in Pakistan, having deliberated over the new “Budget” at length and in depth, hereby unanimously and unequivocally reject it on the following grounds:
Pakistan faces a global pandemic, global economic crisis, and an historic locust threat. Unprecedented challenges merit an unprecedented response. This is nowhere close to that.
1. The PTI government has presented a budget that is worse than any ritual played out annually, devoid of any speck of good news for the people of Pakistan. It is full of numbers that are not in the least credible even for those presenting it. The obvious deception played out in this budget has started unraveling very quickly under the scrutiny of the opposition. The fears of the people have started to appear in full daylight even before the “no new tax” budget has been voted on. The massive and oppressive increase in petrol prices have laid bare the fact that a series of real budgets will start appearing every day, month and year. How many more bombs is the PTÎ government going to kill us with?
2. Pakistan is going through a grave social and economic crisis. Instead of addressing its dangers, providing for the vulnerable and the poor, looking to save the lives of so many exposed to disease and hunger, the PTI has played the dance of its deadly and divisive politics on this budget too. We say this because the PTI budget shockingly ignores the fact that the world is going through such an unprecedented emergency of epic proportions. Instead of a crisis budget we have a flagrantly dishonest exercise that completely ignores the heartbreaking life-and-death realities on the ground. This budget, It seems has been made on a different planet. The rampant Covid-19 which was ignored by this government in its refusal to take bold policy decisions has similarly been ignored in the budget. No extra protection for doctors on the front lines have been provided, nor incentives for healthworkers putting themselves in danger, so that we may live with our families in peace, have been created.
3. No extra hospitals, ventilators or Oxygen fortified beds have been catered for. On the contrary, like all commodities under this government, even Oxygen has become scarce and people are left at the mercy of oxygen “mafias” with no one to protect them. It lacks any roadmap for health or economic recovery. Other than paper-statements, both the opportunity and the challenge presented by Covid-19 has not been seen in the “budget.” By the government’s own data, until last year there were 1,279 hospitals in the country. No new hospitals were added in the years 2018-2019. It is shocking how after devolution, the provinces which bear the load of the health budget were not even heard in designated constitutional forums such as the CCI, NEC and NFC, which is completely illegal in its notification. The budget also ignored WHO entreaties to the government of Pakistan to add crucial health infrastructure. Instead of enhancing the percentage of GDP spent on health, for instance, which is in need of critical infrastructural and human resource support, this budget has illegally and callously slashed federal support to the provinces which needed more resources for these sectors, by 11 % of the National Finance Commission Award. The budget should have had a health package for all the provinces. The Rs 70 billion paper-provision made for COVID, is actually apparently not for Covid, but everything other than Covid. It must be listed for health and Covid relief.
4. Despite the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization repeatedly supporting opposition warnings, that Pakistan’s GDP can be adversely affected by the locust attack to the tune of Rs 600 billion, the federal government has not just ignored attempts to fight it, but has ONLY allocated Rs 10 billion for it. With 140,000 acres of crops already damaged by this locust tsunami, now hitting other parts of Asia and Africa as well, the budget has criminally neglected calls for pesticide spray planes and other equipment. As it stands 3 million square kilometres of farmland is already affected badly in Pakistan, and further agricultural damage is expected with such inaction. With 60 % of Pakistan hovering the edge of hunger and food insecurity, such federal indifference and inattention to one of the world’s greatest plagues will cost countless lives, not to mention livelihoods and exports from Pakistan. If at least a minimum of 20 aircraft and matching budget, five times the budgeted allocation, is not immediately provided, the FAO’s estimate of damage to Pakistan’s economy will shoot up to Rs 2000 billion. The world is warning that this is the worst Locust attack in 25 years. The Government is ignoring the world, the opposition and not even implementing its own Locust National Action Plan.
5. The alarming national water deficit is an existential one for Pakistan now, with drying up aquifers and sea water intrusion, along with climate change shocks. Despite the fact that the UN has warned that Pakistan will be water-scarce by 2025, allocations for water resources and conservation have been cut.
6. At a time when the people of Pakistan desperately need economic relief, the government plans to collect over a trillion rupees in new taxes, details of which are to be announced in the manner of a sadist bringing out new instruments of torture on a victim one by one.
7. The just announced petrol bomb being only the first of many. The irony is that most of this is being absorbed under the head “petroleum levy”, so as to avoid sharing with the provinces as required by the constitution. This will place an unfair burden on the people already beset with impoverishment, but is also illegal.
8. Crony capitalism was protected by allowing money laundering through the construction sector, which had already made windfall profits through amnesty schemes and other tax breaks. In open contradiction to the famous PTI promise to provide 50 lakh houses for the poor, no such shelter for the poor was provided.
9. Instead of enhancing the BISP grant three-fold to help the population exposed to immediate financial trauma by the recessionary economy, the government slashed social protection by Rs 34 billion, and the ONLY relief given to the poorest of the poor was in the shape of a one-off BISP grant, which was nothing more than the ordinary allocation expensed for the year.
10. Government salaries and pensions were not increased, despite double digit inflation for the first time in many decades. All previous governments have to one extent or another, always provided relief on this count. At a time when the population is vulnerable to an enhanced and dangerous level of health and economic risk, this is a crucial need to support senior citizens in a pandemic, and has been ruthlessly overlooked.
11. This regime has been at pains to portray its “stellar” performance prior to the corona pandemic, whereas their own figures paint a different picture. Their policy of very high interest rates, sudden massive devaluation of rupee and witch-hunt of investors through NAB resulted in stagflation has been responsible for ruining the country. Food inflation went from 1% to 25% in just one and a half years. Over a million people were rendered unemployed in the same period. GDP growth fell from about 5% to l.9% in the first year and -.4% by March…all before anyone here had even been tested for COVID19 in the country.
12. Revenue, which lies at the heart of every economy, never met any of their made-in-IMF targets, with one FBR chief after another going through revolving doors. The PTI is again trying to justify its poor performance by hiding behind the Covid-19 situation. In the pre-Covid-19 situation, the FBR had sustained a shortfall of Rs693 billion. In April, the FBR provisionally collected Rs242.5 billion in taxes, down by Rs48 billion or 16.5% when compared with the collection in the same month of last year. This low revenue will have serious implications for the country’s debt.
The growth target of the government is a mere fiction best read in the section of comedies. Blaming previous governments for every failure, the PTI budget speaks volumes about PTI’s gross mismanagement and profligacy in power. The PTI government had actually in 18 months incurred an unprecedented debt of 12,000 billion and in 2 years will accumulate as much debts that the previous governments took 5 years to complete. It is feared that if this selected government lasts much longer they will leave a debt burden beyond the capacity of their successor governments could pay.
13. Budget consultations ignored all parliamentary procedures. At the same time, money collected internationally to aid Pakistan’s Covid responses is still in no way accounted for. Despite calls to push all such spending through parliament, there has been no transparency or scrutiny on foreign aid. Even the last parliamentary committee on the Covid emergency meeting took place on 27 April, 2020 – almost two months ago. In this moment of crisis, the role of parliamentary committees has been pushed aside, especially when there was a dire need of forging unity and ensuring transparency.
14. This country needs to be saved from this illiterate, incompetent and egotistical government before it brings the country down under the weight of its own burdens.
CONCLUSION: In conclusion this budget fails on every account to adequately address the challenges posed by a global pandemic, a huge locust invasion and ongoing global economic shocks. It fails miserably in providing relief to its citizens when they need it most. It fails to protect their lives, her health, their livelihoods. Therefore, the joint opposition rejects it totally.