Islamabad, 16 June 2020: Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, taking part in the debate on budget proposals by the federal government in the National Assembly, has said that the Covid-19 is a challenge. In the past, such pandemics have destroyed ancient civilizations and have broken nations apart. Every fifteen minute, a Pakistani succumbs to the Covid-19 and passes away.
The other challenge facing us is the locust attack which is the most severe locust attack in twenty five years; there is a threat of floods and economic depression in the country. This budget is not a budget for the current situation. This budget is not a budget for current times, and that too, of a country battling the Covid-19 and locust attacks. This is a budget for another country, another situation and from another time. 149 lac people are suffering from Covid-19 and approximately 3000 have passed away. 2000 doctors and paramedics have been infected and 40 have passed away but the government has no policy.
Someone had said that Covid-19 is just like a cold or flu, it is not lethal, it would end on its own in the summer and that it is not a pandemic.
Chairman Bilawal said, how dare you blame the Pakistani people for your criminal negligence? The people will surely give you an answer in the elections. We were hoping that this budget would tackle those problems and challenges. The federal government only ‘promised’ better steps, but we did not increase our budget for health.
He said that we have not allotted enough money for our provincial governments to battle the Covid-19. We did not increase the salaries of our health workers, the risk allowance. PPP always warned you of these challenges, about terrorism as well. The past year, President Zardari and Akhtar Mengal had highlighted the locust issue in the Parliament.
Until children were not martyred in the APS incident, no one believed that there is a threat of terrorism. Our people are threatened by the locust attack, but the government has done nothing to tackle the issue. This issue is the most dangerous after Covid-19. Till today, an airplane is parked in Sukkur without a pilot. When will we take action?
We have been trying to make them understand since February, you are yourself putting food security in danger. Who is responsible for the loss that our federation is suffering? The federal government of course.
Chairman PPP said that we asked them to adopt the WHO guidelines, had requested a lockdown. We could have prepared by imposing a lockdown, we had to improve our healthcare capacity, we were listening to the voices of our doctors and nurses, and we were listening to our experts and scientists. The Prime Minister was listening to the businessmen and the ATMs.
The time during Ramadan and Eid was very dangerous. Had we imposed a lockdown until after Eid, we could have stopped the spread of the virus and it would have been limited to big cities only. We are the only country which protected our right to shop, but did not protect our right to life. We had an example of Germany. We had examples like New Zealand and Australia before us. Italy used to ask others to learn from their experience. Poor countries are also combating the Covid-19, there is not a single death in Vietnam, and it is because they faced the pandemic with unity and harmony. They saved their life and economy. We were being given Sweden as an example, but today, Sweden’s leaders are apologizing because the most deaths and economic loss has occurred there. Today, Sweden has it worse than any of its neighbours.
He said that I have two questions. How many business and industrialist were met during the lockdown? How many doctors, nurses and labourers were met? This tells us who are prime minister is worried about.
Benazir Income Support Program’s four months worth of money was distributed at a time. The rich were given relief. The poor people were not provided with any sort of relief. There should have been a 40% increase in BISP. You have to transfer cash to our poor and middle class people as well. This budget is a traditional PTIMF budget, our finance minister agrees. He says that they are more worried for IMF more than for our people. They have appeased the IMF by crushing the poor.
It is said that the GDP will face a -0.4% growth, the World Bank states it will be -2.5%. They said that they would not obtain a loan from the State Bank but during 2019-2020, Rs. 1720 million were obtained from the State Bank. They claim that Rs. 5000 billion were returned as a loan payment, when you have taken a new loan just to pay the old one. This government has faced the least growth but has obtained the most loans.
He said that the government should have imposed taxes on the rich and given relief to the people. The poor people suffer the most under the burden of indirect taxes. You should have imposed a ‘Covid-19 Super Tax’. A wealth tax should have been imposed and those with assets worth more than 2 crore should have been asked to pay 1%. This is an anti-poor and anti-labourer budget. You should have increased the salaries and the pensions.
In our tenure, we had increased the pensions by 100% and the salaries by 135%. We demand an increase in salaries and pensions. Employees are risking their lives to combat Covid-19. There should be an increase in everyone’s salaries, be it the doctors and nurses or the police. During a pandemic, ten thousand steel mill employees were rendered unemployed. We cannot lay them off, the land is ours, if you have to do something, then talk to us. You cannot lay them off after the Corona Bill in Sindh. They are an oppressive government. They have decreased former FATA’s budget during a pandemic. The money that has been allotted to tackle the locust issue is insufficient. This is a matter of life and death for our farmers and us.
Chairman Bilawal said that today too, they are being unjust to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They are not being given their share of the Hydel Project. Balochistan’s money is being deducted and given to Islamabad, this is unjust. You deduct Rs. 6 billion from Gilgit Baltistan’s budget. You are being unjust to Sindh as well. You are deducting Rs. 229 billion from us. Countries are not run like this, we are not colonies.
This is PTI’s fourth budget, this is anti-education and they are deducting 37% from Balochistan’s HEC. How oppressive are you during a pandemic? Before the lockdown and Covid-19 you were harming us. Your own report says that due to the IMF deal, the economy which was first in the ICU is now on the ventilator. After Covid-19, you have to stay away from IMF’s approach and would have to invest in your own agriculture.
He said that this government is trying to hide behind the Covid-19 and in the name of coronavirus, they are gathering funds from and outside the country but are not spending them on corona patients. Rs. 70 billion is not being allotted for corona but for their members’ own projects.
They want to steal the hospitals of provincial governments. Why do you want to fight with the provinces during a pandemic? The NICVD treats the most number of patients suffering from heart diseases free of cost. Imran Khan’s relative has destroyed the hospitals in KP. You want to destroy every successful PPP project and we will not let this happen. For a long time, we are trying to get as little help from the federal government as we can. We should increase our local revenue so that we can get a greater share.
We should take decisions based on consensus; we should not tamper with the fault lines that are the 18th Amendment and the NFC Awards. A woman was martyred in Turbat, the whole of Balochistan protested. A PTM candidate was murdered in FATA. This is a fault line. We should not tamper with them, Chairman PPP said.
He said that you only allotted Rs. 10 billion for locusts, but Rs. 80 billion for a dam. You give a seat to AJK in NFC like a province which is unconstitutional and we all have to bear the repercussions of this act which is why we demand to withdraw this NFC award. You cannot shy away from the responsibility from a ‘right to life’. We cannot say that the government is not responsible for the lives, health facilities and food security of the people. We have to not only save the lives of the people, but also the economy of the country. We reject this budget, Chairman Bilawal concluded.