Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar on Saturday advised the people to consume chicken instead of pulses. “Tell your voters to eat chicken if they say that Daal Mash is as expensive as Rs260 per kilogram, and they should prefer to eat chicken which is available for Rs200 per Kg,” he said while responding to the opposition members’ hue and cry over the increased prices of pulses.
He said that the cauldron of loans was cooked by the PPP during its regime. He said the process of getting loans started in 1947. The debts which stood at Rs3,000 billion till June 30, 1999, reached Rs5,800 billion in the Musharraf regime and further increased to Rs14,318 billion in the Pakistan People’s Party’s last tenure.
He offered to tender his resignation as minister if allegations regarding his foreign assets and foreign accounts were proved true.
Winding up the debate on charge expenditure, the finance minister also threatened the politicians levelling false allegations of taking them to court.
Ishaq Dar on Saturday lost his patience and gave a befitting response to Shaikh Rashid Ahmad’s criticism. He had accused the minister of keeping his money in foreign banks. “I do not smuggle silk from China and if a single penny of mine is proved in foreign banks, I will resign,” he said.
Dar also prayed for the early marriage of Shaikh Rashid Ahmad.
He said that details of his assets were with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and would take those to the court who had been levelling false allegations against him.
He said that he challenged that he would tender his resignation if a single penny out of his declared assets were proved in any foreign account. “I will not tolerate this any more,” he said adding that loose talk just to make news should be avoided.
About news and allegations about his son, he advised the critics that there was no need to drag them into politics.
About the expenditure of the president, the minister said the president represented the country at international forums and the government had to allocate funds for fulfilling his responsibilities.
He claimed that the amount spent on the Presidency now was far lower than that used by previous governments.
He said soon after assuming power, the government had stopped secret funds to 32 institutions out of 34. “Only the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) and IB (Intelligence Bureau) were provided secret funds, but there was a mechanism to audit these funds,” he said.
He said this year three out of four provinces had a deficit budget and they should concentrate on their capacity as after the devolution of power under the 18th Amendment, they did not properly spend the amount they got from the federal divisible pool.
Ishaq Dar said that the present government had reduced the fiscal deficit by half from 8.8 percent to 4.3 percent. Apart from this, development expenditure had been doubled while allocations for the social safety nets had been enhanced three times. He said, “We are trying to reduce dependence on loans.”
He said the public debt multiplied during previous governments.
Responding to criticism raised by almost all the opposition members on the policy and performance of the Foreign Office, he said that the Foreign Office was well aware of the happenings around in the world.
He said that firing at the Pak-Afghan border was unfortunate and it should not have happened. “The prime minister has called Special Assistant to the PM on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatimi to London to discuss the issue,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly on Saturday passed 75 demands for grants relating to different ministries, divisions and departments for the next fiscal year on Saturday.
These related to Climate Change, Commerce Division, Communications Division, Pakistan Post Office, Defence Division, Federal Government Educational Institutions, Housing and Works, Industries and Production Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, Law and Justice Division, Council of Islamic Ideology, NAB, the National Assembly, the Senate, National Health Services, Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, Planning and Development, Pakistan Railways, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Frontier Regions, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and the Textile Industry.
The opposition moved no cut motions on these demands for grants.
Ishaq Dar assured that the salaries of MNAs would be reviewed after the return of the prime minister from London.
The House held a discussion on the charged expenditure included in the demands for grants and appropriations for the financial year 2016-17.
Charged expenditure totaling over Rs10.42 trillion related to different departments and services including the Pakistan Railways, National Assembly, the Senate, the Supreme Court, Islamabad High Court, domestic and foreign debt servicing and repayments, Pakistan Post Office, Wafaqi Mohtasib and the Foreign Affairs Division.
Speaking on the charged expenditure, the members said the government should revisit its privatisation policy and profitable units should not be privatised to pay off foreign and domestic loans. They pointed out that a major amount of the budget was going in debt servicing and the government should cut non-development expenditure and put the country on the road to self-reliance.
They said the Pakistan Post Office had a big infrastructure and facilities like the acquisition of passports should be made available at the post offices. They recommended that the salaries of elected parliamentarians should be enhanced, as it would also help end corruption.