Govt returns to parliament after Alvi ‘refuses’ ordinance

• President asks govt to take assembly into confidence; policy statement expected in today’s sitting
• Non-tax measures dropped; levy on cigarettes and ‘luxury product’, 1pc hike in GST to raise Rs170bn

ISLAMABAD: Despite its attempt to expedite pas­sage of fiscal measures mandated by the Internat­i­o­nal Monetary Fund (IMF), the government was forced to head to parliament on Tuesday after President Arif Alvi “adv­ised” Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to take parliament into confidence over the Rs170 billion in new taxes that are being levied.

Soon after the presid­ent’s ‘refusal’, a cabinet meeting was convened to approve the tax amendment bill — Finance Bill 2023 — which would be tabled in both houses of parliament on Wednesday (today), as per a statement issued by the PM Office after the meeting.

The sta­tement added that an ‘austerity package’ targeting government expenditure was also in its final stages.

Interestingly, hours be­fore Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was reportedly snubbed by the president, National Assembly Spea­ker Raja Pervez Ashraf adjourned a joint sitting of parliament until Feb 28.

For the government, it is a race against time as it wants to implement tax me­a­sures by Feb 15 to sec­ure the early release of an IMF tranche much needed to beef up shrinking foreign exchange reserves.

In light of this urgency, the National Assembly and Senate will meet in the evening today to take up the bill.

A statement on Twitter by the Presi­dent’s Office said that sessions of both houses of parliament have been summoned to meet today (Wednesday).

Mr Dar was also supposed to talk to the media in the evening; how­ever, the finance min­istry later issued a statement saying the media talk was cancelled and the bill for new tax measures would be tabled in parliament today.

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