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ISLAMABAD: National Assembly has accorded its approval to as many as 71 supplementary demands for grants of various department and ministries of Rs 544.824 billion for 2019-20 fiscal year with the Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar maintaining that Rs 300 billion in the supplementary grant was related to the corona pandemic.

Winding up discussion on the supplementary demands for grants, the minister explained that there are three kinds of supplementary grants;(i) token supplementary grants for which few thousand are allocated to open an account;(ii) technical supplementary grants and no additional resources are provided outside the budget and funds are reallocated from one head to other and; (iii) in regular supplementary grants additional resources from the budgetary allocation are provided.

Azhar added that Rs 300 billion regular supplementary grants provided in the just concluded fiscal year were related to the corona pandemic whereas Rs 32 billion was provided to the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) for currency loss for the last two to three years.

He said that the remaining amount supplementary grants were technical for which the government did not provide additional resources.

The minister said that in the last fiscal year (2017-18) of Pakistan Muslim League (N) government, around Rs 600 billion supplementary grants were provided; out of total Rs 600 billion, Rs 415 billion regular supplementary grants were provided when there was no calamity such as earthquake or corona pandemic, he added.

The minister further stated that the present government in its first fiscal year reduced the quantum of supplementary grants to Rs 222 billion and plan was that in the second fiscal year, supplementary grants would be further reduced. However, due to Covid-19, the government has to give supplementary grants to different organizations for providing relief to people and industry.

About the technical supplementary grant of Prime Minister's Office, he stated that it was related to the NDMA. He said that Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) was provided a supplementary grant because it was facing a shortfall of around Rs 800-900 billion due to CoviD-19 to enable it to make payments of refunds to businesses. The ministry of industries and production was provided supplementary grants for utility Stores Corporation (USC).

The minister said that unspent amount of stimulus package of Corona Relief would be parked in a separate account of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), namely the Corona Fund Account to be utilized in fiscal year 2020-21.

While responding to the criticism of opposition members that the federal government was not transferring National Finance Commission (NFC) share to the provinces from divisible pool, he said that the federal government has no power to stop NFC collection in divisible pool, however, on this account, he said he would ask the provinces to constitute provincial finance commissions and transfer resources to the district governments.

The minister said, "We are spending very low portion of FBR tax collection on the FBR as compared to other regional countries and acknowledged that there was a need to undertake reforms in the FBR."

He also explained that the petroleum development levy (PDL) and the GST on petroleum products have not been increased and prices of petroleum products were raised due to increase in petroleum prices in the international market.

The National Assembly also approved excess demands for grants and appropriation for the financial years 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011- 2012, 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.

Earlier, PML-N's Rana Tanvir Ahmad said that billions were being given to federal ministries and related departments but their performance was very poor and bad governance was their hallmark in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) tenure during the last two years. He alleged that around Rs 300 billion went into the pockets of three oil companies because of the poor policies of the present government. Syed Naveed Qamar of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was given assurance by the government that no supplementary grant would be provided in the last fiscal year but it still provided supplementary grants. He said that other than Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) a supplementary grant was issued for "political expediency."

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020