Rs 101 billion collection through utility consumers

By: Zulfiqar Ahmad 

The opposition lawmakers in Senate on Thursday lambasted the government for its recent decision to collect Rs 101 billion from the consumers for laying a gas pipeline despite the fact that it has already collected over Rs 160 billion from customers for the same purpose.

Two separate motions signed by some 34 opposition senators about collection of Rs 101 billion through utility consumers and not giving relief to masses despite huge reduction in petroleum products’ prices in international market, were moved in the house.

The motions moved by Senator Saeed Ghani were clubbed together by the chair. Opening the debate Senator Ghani said there was no justification for collection of Rs 101 billion from gas consumers as the government is already collecting Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC).

The decision to collect Rs 101 billion, he said, is not only ‘cruel’ on poor masses who are already crushed under skyrocketing inflation, but it is tantamount to encouraging departments like the ‘inefficient’ Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), which has completely failed to undertake its duties.

Colonel Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi (Retd) of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) said that the state is more loyal to its cronies instead of giving relief to poverty stricken people, adding the handful elite are being protected at the cost of common man.

“The country’s tax revenues is doing down. Its debt is almost certainly unsustainable without IMF and other donor agencies’ help. And yet the government is not ready to bring the big fish under the tax net,” he lamented.

Senator Noman Wazir of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said that the FBR can identify a mere 700,000 individuals who have been paying tax.

“The burden is on the poor who are paying more taxes through indirect taxation. The state-run enterprises such as Pakistan Steel Mills and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited, PIA etc have been at loggerheads for last many months, resulting in loss of Rs 70 everyday,” he flayed.

Senator Kamil Ali Agha of Pakistan Muslim league-Quaid (PML-Q) said that the flawed policies have badly exposed the rulers who could not even fulfil a single agenda which they had listed in their agenda before coming into power.

He continued that the democratic government regime looks like a dictatorial regime as one person – the prime minister – takes decision, completely ignoring the summaries prepared by regulatory authorities.

“A recent summary prepared by Ogra (Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority) to reduce the oil prices by Rs 11 per litre was not even seen by the prime minister, who himself announced Rs 5 cut in POl prices…isn’t this dictatorship,” he questioned.

Senator Farhatullah Babar of PPP said that not transferring the benefit of reduced oil prices to the people, levy of 40 billion taxes recently and the decision to tax the poor additional Rs 110 billion for building pipelines networks demonstrated the PML-N government’s lopsided economic priorities as well as its personalised style of governance.

“The government is taxing the poor through indirect and double taxation, protecting the rich unabashedly and is taking personalised decisions disregarding the institutional mechanisms of Council of Common Interest, the Parliament and the regulatory bodies mandated by law,” he added.

Senator Babar said that the people have already been paying for the pipelines in the form of GIDC and charging them again another Rs 110 billion for the same purpose was nothing but double taxation which was not only illegal and unconstitutional but also callous.

He said that this government never taxed the rich as was evident from the mid 90’s tax returns of the chief executive that were recently flaunted in the senate by the opposition leader.

He said that the personalised style of taking unilateral decisions without consultation was reflected by the fact that even before the OGRA summary landed on the PM’s desk proposing Rs 11 per litre cut the PM unilaterally announced a meager Rs 5 per litre cut in petroleum prices without consulting anyone.

He said that the poor people of all provinces were being subjected to double taxation for building gas pipelines to transport LNG from the port to Punjab for power generation without taking the matter to parliament or the Council of Common Interest which is the constitutional forum for this purpose. This will breed resentment among other provinces, he said.

He said that the Sindh government had already asked the power regulator not to allow Punjab government’s request for building of power plants based on imported LNG unless the issue was discussed and decided in the Council of Common Interest.

He called for reversing the decision of double taxation, transferring the benefit of reduced petroleum prices to the common people, taxing the rich, avoidance of taking personalised decisions and to take decisions through institutional mechanisms of the Parliament and the CCI.

Usman Saifullah Khan, another PPP senator strongly objected to consistent absence of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. He wandered how he could have a glimpse of the Finance Minister in the house.

But, the young senator from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa quickly added: “I’m not being sarcastic. We really want to learn from him as he’s a very experienced man”.

He also questioned that why International Monetary Fund (IMF) team could not come to Pakistan for negotiations and prefers to stay in Dubai when Queen Maxima of Netherlands, World Bank president and others can come to Pakistan.

“Pakistan is not a banana republic. The IMF team should come to Pakistan and our government must give importance to parliament instead of dashing off to Dubai on the one phone call of IMF officials to hold talks,” he maintained.

Senator Javed Abbasi of ruling PML-N said that instead of indulging into criticism for the sake of criticism, the opposition should come out with some recommendations to improve economy and reform of different sectors.

He said the country was in bad shape when PML-N took over, adding it effected and all round improvement in almost every sphere of life right from load-shedding, terrorism, Karachi turmoil, etc.

Mian Attique Ahmad Shaikh of MQM claimed that the government reduced the POL prices on the orders of Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General Raheel Sharif.

“It’s not confirmed, Mr chairman…there were rumours that POL prices were reduced on CoAS orders last month. Why don’t you [the government] do it yourself, and for how long you will keep standing outside GHQ, seeking help for all the issues,” he added.

The house passed a resolution to pay tribute to famous writer Fatima Surraya Bajia. The resolution eulogised her services and described her as multi-dimensional personality. It also passed a resolution to pay tribute to former Deputy Chairman Senate Malik Muhammad Ali Khan, who passed away over the weekend.

Source: Business Recorder