Asad Umar sides with opposition

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Shafaqna Pakistan:The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance has raised objections to making effort to “goof up” parliament for presenting wrong estimates of budget deficit in the range of Rs800 billion and demanded of the government to fix the responsibility who deliberately hid facts.

The Chairman NA Panel on Finance and Revenues, Asad Umar, who belongs to the ruling PTI’s benches, was of the view that the government presented the budget deficit estimates of 7.2 percent of GDP on eve of budget for 2019-20 and just after 20 days on June 30, 2019, the deficit had widened to 8.9 percent of GDP, equivalent to Rs800 billion.

“What kind of budget estimates, the Ministry of Finance is preparing. Somebody should be held accountable who is deliberately making efforts to goof up the parliament” the NA panel Chairman, Asad Umar, said while presiding over the meeting here at the Parliament House on Wednesday.

The proceedings of the committee also exposed poor performance of Finance Secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch, who had appeared before parliamentary panel without proper homework as at least on four occasions he requested the committee to give him more time for replying different questions raised by parliamentarians.

On key economic issues, the incumbent Finance Secretary was simply clueless mainly because he had never served in the Federal Ministry of Finance before assuming the charge of this crucial post at a time when the country was under the IMF programme.

However, Asad Umar said that what kind of projection were being made in the Finance Ministry as their assessment went off massively to the tune of Rs800 billion within period of just 20 days. “It’s not simply error but more than that,” he added.

Rameesh Kumar, MNA from PTI, said that this misleading information presented before parliament should be taken seriously and the matter should be referred to NAB. When the committee members frequently inquire reasons behind this surge in deficit so abruptly, the Finance Secretary replied that the supplementary grants played role for escalating the budget deficit.

The members of the committee, irrespective of political divide, were unanimously unsatisfied the briefing of Finance Ministry as MNA Faiz Ulllah inquired that the austerity did not become obvious through fiscal numbers as the running of the civil government expenditures went up.

Ali Pervez belonging to PML-N said that the austerity led us nowhere.

Another official of the Finance Division told the committee that the running of civil government related expenditures increased Rs48 billion mainly because of requirement of civil armed forces to the tune of Rs28 billion on western borders in the aftermath of Pulwama attack. The passport office demanded of Rs4 billion, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) sought Rs19 billion and Overseas Pakistanis by Rs2.4 billion through supplementary grants.

On debt situation, the Director General, Debt Office into Ministry of Finance told the committee that total public debt and liabilities went up by Rs7.75 trillion as it stood at Rs24.95 trillion in June 2018 that now stood at Rs32.71 trillion on June 2019. The devaluation, discount rates and creation of buffer stocks hiked the debt by Rs4.31 trillion while the financing of budget deficit caused hike by Rs3.44 trillion.

Dr Ayesha Ghous Pasha, MNA from PML-N, said that the exchange policy and discount rate caused numerous loss to the national economy and DG Debt endorsed her viewpoint during the proceedings of the meeting.

The NA Panel Chairman, Asad Umar, also established a subcommittee under chairperson of Ayesha Ghous Pasha and comprised of Hina Rabbani Khar and Rameesh Kumar to ascertain reasons for increasing inflationary pressures and recommend ways and means to suggest for adoption of medium to long term strategy to control increasing price hike.

On this point, when Secretary Finance informed the NA panel that they would come up with future projection related to inflation in next meeting. Hina Rabbani Khar, belonging to PPP, asked Finance Secretary when the last meeting of the National Price Monitoring Control Committee (NPMCC) was held, he replied that it held many months back.