Hashim Jawan Bakht Lays Down Tax-free Budget Amid Raucous Commotion

LAHORE, (Muzaffargarh.City – 16th Jun, 2020 ) :Finance Minister Punjab Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht on Monday laid down Rs 2240.70 billion tax-free budget for the fiscal year 2020-21 amid boisterous rumpus by the opposition during the Punjab Assembly session at a local hotel. Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi chaired the assembly session to present the annual budget which started 2 hours behind its scheduled time of 2:00 p.m. Leader of the House, Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Usman Khan Buzdar was present during the budget session. In his budget speech, Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht outlined the salient features of the next fiscal year’s budget including tax relief; cut in current expenditure and austerity; economic stability and development; social protection and steps for deserving segments; human capital development; agriculture and food security and Public-Private Partnership (PPP), adding that the preferences were part of a comprehensive strategy under the ‘Rise Punjab’ which would provide guidelines to deal with the economic challenges in the face of COVID-19 pandemic. The Finance Minister said budget included a total outlay of Rs 2,240.7 billion, including Rs 337 billion, for development, adding that under the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, Punjab would receive Rs 1,433 billion, while provincial receipts (Own Resource Revenue) are estimated at Rs 317 billion during financial year 2020-21. Hashim Jawan Bakhat added that on-going expenditure for the next FY have been estimated at Rs 1318 billion containing Rs 337.6 billion for salaries, while Rs 337 billion have been allocated for development expenditures, Rs 128.40 billion for capital expenditure, and Rs 125 billion as estimated provincial surplus. The government has also reduced Service Delivery Expenditures by Rs 10 billion and increased the local governments’ budget by Rs 10 billion, he said and added that it was also proposed to save more than Rs 19 billion through Pension Reforms. The Minister said pro-business, progressive budget would provide a tax relief package of more than Rs 56 billion through reduction in GST on services, under which Health Insurance and Doctors’ Consultancy Fee and tax on hospitals which were 16 and five percent respectively, have been proposed to bring to zero; bringing down 16 per cent tax on 20 services to five percent including small hotels and guest houses, marriage halls/lawns/marquees, tent caterers, IT services, tour operators, property dealers, Rent a car service, cable tv operators, treatment of textile and leather, food grains commission agents, photography, parking services, and Auditing, Accounting and Tax Consultancy Services etc. He said it has been proposed in the budget document to charge tax at Rs 50 per square foot and Rs 100 per yard from property builders and developers, and the property builder and developer will pay tax, he will be exempted from tax on construction services. The Minister Finance said 16 per cent tax will be charged from customers who pay through cash at restaurants and beauty parlors while this tax will be charged at five per cent if paid through credit or debit card, adding that it will help document the economy. During next FY, he said, the property tax can be paid in two installments and those who pay full tax till September 30, 2020 will be given 10 per rebate instead of five per cent and there will be no surcharge on tax on them during FY 2020-21. It has also been proposed to reduce Entertainment Tax from 20 per cent to five per cent, besides exempting all cinema houses from Entertainment Duty till June 30, 2021, and implementation on New Valuation Table of Property Tax has also been deferred for one year. He said that 20 per cent instead of 10 per cent rebate will be given upon payment of full Registration and Token Tax of vehicles, and five per cent Special Discount will be given on online payment through e-Pay Portal. Board of Revenue is eying Rs. 20 billion revenue from lease of state lands, rental and sale etc. under Land Utilization Policy. In this connection, amendments in Land Revenue Act 1967 will soon be passed. It has been proposed, in another business friendly decision, to bring down Stamp Duty ratio from five to only one per cent that will promote construction industry and help generate jobs. Makhddom Hashim claimed Punjab had made substantial advancement in achieving economic targets and tax revenue collection in the current fiscal year before spread of coronavirus i.e. till March 2020 as Punjab’s Own Source Revenues were up by 23 per cent. Before Corona pandemic, he mentioned, FBR tax revenues were showing 13 per cent increase; Current Account Deficit was reduced by 71 per cent, Fiscal Deficit reached four per cent to GDP ratio. The PTI government has its inception been following the policy of austerity and in this connection, supplementary grants worth Rs 61 billion has been rejected during current FY alone, while Austerity Committee also helped save Rs 1.5 billion by reducing demands for grants from various departments. As per vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, he said that fee on business licenses fall in the ambit of local governments has been brought to zero to ensure ease of doing business. It will not only help promote economic activities but also ensure tax relief worth Rs 600 million to local populations, he added. About the development budget, he said a total of Rs 337 billion would be spent on developmental schemes/projects of various sectors during the next financial year (2020-2021). The Minister said despite huge economic challenges and dearth of resources, the government did not comprise on development programme and earmarked Rs 337 billion as development expenditure. He mentioned that on-going developmental projects would be completed on priority basis. Hashim Jawan said out of the total Rs 337 billion development budget, Rs 97.66 billion would be spent on social sector, Rs 77.86 billion on infrastructure development, Rs 17.35 billion on production sector, Rs 45.38 billion on services sector, Rs 51.24 billion on miscellaneous sectors, Rs 47.5 billion on special programme and Rs 25 billion on the Public Private Partnership (PPP). Keeping in view the meager resources in the presence of coronavirus challenges, the government has decided to involve private sector through Innovative Financing to fulfill development needs. For this purpose, Punjab Public-Private Partnership Authority and 165 mega projects have been identified for next FY which included Lahore Ring Road (SL-4), dualisation of Multan-Vehari Road, Nulla Leh (Rawalpindi) Expressway, provision of water meters and Rawalpindi Ring Road etc. He mentioned that projects under the PPP would be exempted from Sale Tax on Services for five years. The minister told the house that Rs 15 billion are being allocated for Community Development Programme (CDP) to start labour intensive programmes, while a hefty amount is also being earmarked for on-going projects under Sustainable Development Goals Achievement Programme (SAP). Since Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) have key role in economic development of Punjab, he said, an allocation of Rs 8 billion has been made for MSMEs. Besides tax exemptions, Rural Enterprises as well as reforms will also be introduced in this sector, he said and added that with this government’s intervention, an accumulative four to five times capital injection in the market was expected. Hashim Jawan said that Rs 6.87 billion would be given to TEVTA (Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority) enabling youths active participation in technical training and economic activities. Out this budget, he said, Rs 1.5 billion will be spent on Hunnarmand Nojawan Programme, while Rs 4.9 billion for Skill Development Programme. TEVTA courses will be revised to bring these at par with international standard. Improving the living standard of poor segment of society has always been top priority of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Punjab Chief Minister, he said and mentioned that Punjab Social Protection Authority (PSPA) budget for FY 2020-21 would be around Rs 4 billion under which Punjab Ehsas Programme (PEP) will be implemented. He said that Panagha (Shelter Houses) were being constructed at every divisional headquarters for social welfare, while two new centres were being established at Lahore and Rawalpindi to curb violence against women. Hashim Jawan said that poverty reduction and employment projects worth more than Rs 2 billion would be completed under South Punjab Poverty Alleviation Programme (PPPAP) in 10 Punjab districts ie Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, D.

G.Khan, Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur, Layyah, Bhakkar, Khushab and Mianwali. Similarly, Rs 1.15 billion will be spent on Women Income Generation and Self Reliance (WINGS) Project in districts of Vehari, Chiniot, Sargodha, Pakpattan, Khanewal, Okara, Multan, Sheikhupura and Rawalpindi. An amount of Rs 5.36 billion has been set aside for Human Capital Investment Project to jack up the people living below poverty line, he added. In an effort to make access of South Punjab’s people to government departments, establishment of South Punjab Secretariat consisting of 16 departments has been approved and Rs 50 billion has been earmarked in this regard. He maintained that posts of Additional Chief Secretary and Additional IG Police Punjab had been created and both the officers will assume their respective offices from July 01, 2020. About the health and education sectors, Punjab has earmarked Rs 284.2 billion and Rs 391 billion for Health and Education sectors respectively. Giving allocations break-up of Health sector, he said that on-going non-development expenditure of this sector is Rs 250.7 billion and development expenditure is Rs 33 billion. Since Health sector is under extreme pressure due to COVID-19, he said that Rs 13 billion has been allocated to control this pandemic and more than Rs 26 billion for medicines procurement. He continued that project worth more than Rs 6 billion will be completed by Specialized Healthcare Department, citing that these projects include up-gradation and provision of missing facilities at DHQ Hospitals in D.G.Khan, Gujranwala and Sahiwal, establishment of Institute of Urology and Transplantation Rawalpindi, Nishtar Hospital-II Multan, Mother and Child Block at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital Lahore, up-gradation of Radiology/Specialties Departments at Services Hospital Lahore, and Institute of Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery at Children Hospital Lahore. Institute of Cardiology will be constructed in D.G.Khan and Thalassemia Unit and Bone Marrow Transplant Centre at Victoria Hospital Bahawalpur will be up-graded, while all necessary facilities will be provided at Institute of Cardiology Wazirabad, Institute of Neurosciences Lahore and Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute Lahore, he maintained. In order to improve Health Sector Service delivery, the minister said that a total of 12000 vacancies of doctors and paramedical staff will be filled. He mentioned that scope of Sehat Insaaf Card has been extended entire Punjab and five million cards have so far been distributed, while Rs 12 billion has been allocated under this head for FY 2020-21. Hashim Jawan said that Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department would have Rs 11.46 billion development budget for up-gradation of DHQ Hospitals in under-developed areas, establishment of Mother and Child Hospitals, revamping of tehsil headquarters hospitals. A comprehensive programme is also being launched to control TB, AIDS, Hepatitis and Coronavirus, while a hefty grant has been earmarked under Prime Minister Health Initiative to keep the Basic Health Units operational 24/7. He said that Rs 1.7 billion has been set aside for Integrated Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child Health and Nutrition Programme. Provincial Finance Minister said that Education Sector will have Rs 357 billion for non-development and Rs 34.55 billion development expenditures. School Education Department (SED) will be given a total of Rs 350.1 billion out of which Rs 27.6 billion will be spent on development side. Through its development budget, the department will provide educational stipend and textbooks to more than 500,000 students. Rs 13.5 billion has been allocated for school councils, Rs 3 billion for Danish Schools, and Rs 22 billion under Public-Private Partnership for Punjab Education Foundation and PEIMA. In addition to this, the department will also construct additional classrooms, upgrade various schools, and establish computer labs. He mentioned that PTI government has so far upgraded 1227 elementary schools to high schools. Higher Education Department will get Rs 37.56 billion out of which Rs 3.9 billion will be spent of developmental projects which includes seven new universities, provision of essentials at universities, educational stipends to the poor but intelligent students. Similarly, an amount of Rs 3 billion and Rs 800 million are being earmarked for Literacy and Non-Formal Education, and Special Education respectively. On the agriculture sector, Hashim Jawan Bakht said Rs 31.73 billion have been earmarked for the agriculture sector in the financial year 2020-21, with a vision to transform the sector into high value one with consistent approach in promoting value agriculture produces as fruits and vegetables, with 12 per cent of the total agriculture sector annual development program (ADP). The Finance Minister said human resource is a vital constituent of health sector service delivery and the government had inducted more than 12000 doctors, nurses and paramedical staff while he also announced to launch Punjab Intermediate Cities Improvement Investment Program (PICIIP) in cities like Sahiwal and Sialkot with an allocation of 8 billion rupees, adding that Punjab Police Integrated Command and Control Center (PPIC-3) Rawalpindi Center project of the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) is being launched in the next fiscal year with an expenditure of Rs. 9.23 billion. Finance Minister Punjab said Punjab Aab-e-Pak Authority has been established to provide clean drinking water to the masses and an amount of Rs. 2.5 billion has been earmarked while Rs. 2 billion have been set aside for the promotion of religious tourism in the province. Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim, towards the close, hailed the services of medical professionals and paramedical staff, district administrations, Policemen, Rescue 1122, the armed forces, media men and all those person who have rendered services to contain coronavirus pandemic in the province. He urged the parliamentarians across the aisle to serve the masses selflessly by putting aside personal prejudices and vested interests. Earlier, as soon as the Chair, opened the floor and invited Finance Minister Punjab Hashim Jawan Bakht to present the annual budget 2020-21, Opposition MPA Rana Mashood Ahmed Khan rose up and sought Speaker’s nod to speak on a point of order. Rana Mashood’s request to speak on a point of order was turned down by the Speaker as being against the law on the day fixed for the laying down the annual budget. This added fire to the fuel and the opposition members led by Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz Sharif embarked on a long raucous protest which culminated only when opposition staged a walk-out little before the Finance Minister concluded his budget speech in the house. It is pertinent to mention, the opposition members set aside all SOPs on social distancing during their protest. The Finance Minister continued his budget speech undeterred despite the deafening noise. After an indefatigable show of rowdyism for almost quarter of an hour, the opposition leader Hamza Shehbaz Sharif led the walk-out of the budget session. The opposition had already thinned down during the course of budget speech as opposition members kept leaving the house. Opposition Leader Hamza Shehbaz Sharif, who is under detention of the NAB in the corruption and assets beyond means case, has been attending the PA session after production orders by the Speaker Punjab Assmebly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi. The budget session did not see a full house as members stayed away due to COVID-19 pandemic on both sides of the aisle. The treasury benches hailed the budget speech of Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht by thumping the desks. Punjab Finance Minister also introduced the Finance Bill 2020 besides presenting the Supplementary Budget statement for the year 2019-20.To complete the day’s agenda, Finance Minsiter Punjab Hashim Jawan Bakht laid before the house amendments in the Second schedule and Rules under sections 5 & 76 of the Punjab Sales Tax on Services Act 2012 in the absence of opposition.The Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, on completion of day’s agenda, adjourned the PA session for June 18 (Thursday) at 2:00 p.m. The speaker also invited the members to submit their Names with the Secretary Punjab Assembly in order to take part in budget debate when the session resumes after a two-day break.