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Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday approved the government’s tax-heavy Finance Bill 2024. This was met with sharp criticism from the opposition, which, according to a media report, described it as an IMF-controlled document that would harm the public with a view to the new fiscal year.

Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb presented the budget in the National Assembly on June 12, drawing sharp criticism from opposition parties, particularly the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his ally the Pakistan Peoples Party of former Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

On Friday, Parliament passed Pakistan’s Rs 18,877 billion budget for the fiscal year 2024-25, which lists the government’s expenditure and revenue.

The opposition parties, mostly parliamentarians supported by the currently imprisoned former prime minister Khan, had rejected the budget on the grounds that it would cause severe inflation.

During the National Assembly session, opposition MPs criticised the budget, claiming that it was now an open secret that the document had been dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Opposition leader Omar Ayub Khan had denounced the budget as “economic terrorism against the people”.

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Earlier this week, the PPP, which had initially boycotted the budget debate, decided to vote for the finance bill despite certain reservations.

On Friday, the National Assembly passed the budget with some amendments. The motion followed heated speeches by the opposition, which described the budget as unrealistic and anti-people, anti-industry and anti-agriculture, the Dawn newspaper reported.

President Zardari assented to the bill on Sunday under Article 75 of the Constitution, the media wing of the President’s House said, adding that the bill would come into force from July 1.

According to Article 75(1), the President shall have no power to reject or object to the Finance Bill; the Finance Bill shall be deemed to be a Finance Bill under the Constitution.

On Friday, the government expanded tax exemptions in certain sectors while announcing new tax measures in several areas to raise additional revenue in the coming fiscal year to meet the International Monetary Fund’s criteria.

Pakistan is currently negotiating a loan of $6-8 billion with the IMF, the report said. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Shehbaz confirmed that the budget was prepared in collaboration with the IMF.

The changes include the introduction of a capital value tax on real estate in Islamabad, the implementation of new tax measures for builders and project developers, and an increase in the Petroleum Development Levy (PDL) on diesel and petrol by 10 Pakistani rupees instead of the proposed 20 Pakistani rupees.

According to budget documents, gross revenue is estimated at Rs 17,815 billion, including Rs 12,970 billion in tax revenue and Rs 4,845 billion in non-tax revenue.

The provincial share of federal revenue will be 7,438 billion Pakistani rupees. The growth target for the next fiscal year was set at 3.6 percent.

Inflation is expected to be 12 percent, the budget deficit 5.9 percent of GDP and the primary surplus 1 percent of GDP.

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