HYDERABAD     -     The Hyderabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HCCI) has commented that the federal government has appeased International Monetary Fund (IMF) through the budget 2022-23. HCCI president Adeel Siddiqui also apprehended that more changes were very likely to be made in the budget under IMF dictates because the government had already hinted at 11.5pc price hike during this fiscal. He noted that property tax had been increased from one per cent to two per cent and withholding tax had also been imposed. This, he said, would increase cost of housing. “Housing is already a serious problem being faced by people and the proposed raise in property tax would increase the cost of housing even further,” he added. He said that the ceiling of tax net had been increased from Rs400,000 to Rs600,000 which was still lowest. Mr Siddiqui was also critical of Rs12 billion allocation proposed for the agriculture sector, saying that it was insufficient. He pointed out that non-taxpayers’ figure stood at 2.5 million whereas 1.5 million people appeared to be zero-return filers. He said that textile also needed incentives considering its $7bn exports. Such a kind of budget was very much expected, he said. The HCCI chief stressed on controlling prices of edibles. Regarding the allocation of Rs24 billion for the health sector, he said it showed that the per capita allocation of Rs100 was made whereas expenditures of medicines and consultation were too high. Mr Siddiqui suggested that solar power system should be made part of housing schemes for energy conservation. He welcomed government’s initiative to bring small traders under tax net.

In its reaction, the Awami Tehreek (AT) rejected the budget as “anti-people”, observing that new taxes were imposed on the poor to make their lives miserable.

In a statement, AT president Dr Rasool Bux Khaskheli and other leaders said that the country was facing bankruptcy while Sindh’s agriculture sector stood destroyed due to denial of its due share in water. This sector, being the backbone of the country’s GDP, had constantly been undermined, they added.

They noted that the GDP was now totally based on taxes that was why price hike remained unending. They were of the view that this price hike was not the result of any specific condition, but a result of anti-people policies. They wondered that feudal lords, capitalists and multinational companies were spared when it came to levying taxes, but prices of fuel and edibles were increased to recover more taxes from ordinary people.

They pointed out that last year, only 1.77pc of the budget for education sector was utilised and this was now being cut by 50pc.

They deplored that expenditures of the elite were increased instead of curtailing them.

They strongly criticised slashing of allocations for education, health and social sectors by 50pc.