ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar Friday tabled the federal budget for the fiscal year 2023-24 with a total outlay of over Rs14 trillion months ahead of elections, saying that he is not presenting an election budget.
At the outset of his budget speech — which began after a delay of almost two hours — the finance minister recalled that the country was “headed towards” economic prosperity during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) previous government.
But, he said, a “conspiracy” was hatched against then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was “installed” as the country’s ruling party.
Because of the PTI’s “dismal governance” during its nearly four-year tenure, the finance minister said, the country was now facing one of the “worst economic crises”.
FinMin Dar — who took charge of the finance ministry in September last year — mentioned that despite the tough economic challenges confronting Pakistan due to PTI’s misgovernance, the coalition parties still came into power.
“We took and are still taking tough decisions which rescued the economy from default,” he reiterated — a statement that the incumbent rulers have stressed time and again.
The finance minister mentioned that the country faced numerous internal and external challenges over the last year, but the government upped its efforts and tried to provide relief to the people.
Dar mentioned that although the nation suffered a massive $30 billion in losses due to unprecedented floods, the government is bidding to resume the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) programme and take the country on the road of development.
“We have completed all the prerequisites of the ninth IMF review […] we are hoping to reach an agreement with the IMF,” the IMF told the members of the lower house.
According to the budget document, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has set a tax collection target of Rs. 9.2 trillion. The direct tax collection is estimated to be Rs. 3.759 trillion, while the indirect taxes are projected to reach Rs. 5.441 trillion. Additionally, non-tax revenue is expected to be Rs. 2.963 trillion.
As per the budget document, the government’s total revenue for the upcoming fiscal year will be Rs. 12.163 trillion, with federal receipts amounting to Rs. 2.531 trillion. The provinces will receive a surplus budget of Rs. 650 billion, while Rs. 150 billion will be generated through the institutions’ contributions. The budget deficit for the next fiscal year is projected to be Rs. 7.573 trillion.The defense budget is recommended to be set at Rs. 1.804 trillion, according to the budget document.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced during the budget speech that there will be an increase in pensions for government employees. The minimum pension for government employees will be raised from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 12,000, and the minimum wage in federal areas will be increased to Rs. 32,000. Provinces will decide on their own minimum wages.
The finance minister also revealed that the minimum pension for pensioners receiving pensions through the Employees Old Age Benefit Institution (EOBI) will be increased from Rs. 8,500 to Rs. 10,000.
Regarding debt repayments, the finance minister stated that the government will pay off the debts of indebted individuals’ wives, up to Rs. 1 million. The deposit limit in the National Savings’ Martyrs’ Account will be increased from Rs. 5 million to Rs. 7.5 million.
Ishaq Dar announced that the budget for the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) has been increased from Rs. 360 billion to Rs. 400 billion.
The budget document mentioned the elimination of a 2% tax on the purchase of immovable property through remittances. A new demand card will be introduced in the remittance card category, and those sending remittances exceeding $50,000 annually will be issued a demand card.