Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader and former finance minister Asad Umar on Thursday asked his party’s government to reconsider the increased tax on sugar and cooking oil in the recently announced federal budget for fiscal year 2019-20. “It is not suitable to increase taxes on sugar whose prices are already rising. It [raise in tax] should be taken back and they should also investigate why sugar prices are rising so quickly,” the PTI leader said during his speech in the National Assembly. “The total receivables after an increase in the taxes on sugar, oil and ghee are minimal,” he said, and asked Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Hafeez Shaikh to reconsider when winding up the budget. “Similarly, we had already increased duty on expensive cars and now the duty has been increased on import of small cars like Alto. As I have said, the middle-income class is already going through a difficult phase. I think this measure should also be reviewed,” he suggested. “Pensions should be increased from 10 to 15 percent. Some 50 thousand homes should annually be built for the labourers, and the finance advisor should take this initiative in this budget,” he continued. “Burden on the poor and the middle class should be lessened, and foreign income must be increased,” he added. Asad Umar said there are several problems in the economy that have been there for a long time. “The PML-N government left the economy in a shambles. Due to the government’s efforts, the current account deficit decreased by 70 per cent in just a few months. We need to stop relying on other countries for exports. Instead, we should give a tax exemption to those bringing new business into the country for the next five years,” he said, and suggested that the gas infrastructure development cess should be abolished. Asad Umar maintained that arrests for the sake of political revenge are not right, but accountability of those who have looted Pakistan’s money is essential. “A common practice was observed in the past of remaining silent over each other’s corruption in the name of saving democracy. Democracy is actually the rule of law,” he said. National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser directed Asad Umar to table a bill for the rights of kiln workers when he highlighted the issue of their oppression. Asad Umar also proposed to introduce a registration process of the domestic workers. In his speech, former president and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari affirmed that there is no sincerity in the claim that the budget for fiscal year 2019-20 was prepared by the finance department of the government. He referred to the current economic policies as primary reason for the hardships of industrialists, and said, “Businessmen have been in a state of fear and panic. This wave of arrests must end now. Those powers who bring the government into power have to think now.” “The salaries of the government employees have been increased in the proposed budget, and on the other hand taxes have been imposed,” he said in an ironic manner. “The FBR even sends notice on a cheque of Rs 5 lakh,” he said, and added that his party is ready to sit for talks with the government for forming an economic policy. He said that the political forces will have to unite to force the incumbent government out of power. “If political forces do not step forward, other forces will,” he warned. Earlier, the former president called on the government to end the accountability and arrests in order to ‘move forward’. He thanked the opposition parties and the government coalition parties for backing the demand for his production order. Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh of the PML-N criticised the government’s economic policies, saying those have resulted in depreciation of rupee. He said the government should support the industries to enhance exports. Salahuddin of the MQM said the difficult economic situation warrants that the political parties stand by the government to rid the country of debt trap and stabilise the economy. He said instead of rhetoric, the opposition parties should give concrete suggestions on the budget. He said previous governments did nothing to put the country on the path of sustainable development. He said PTI is the party which cares for the common people and the middle class and is standing firm against corruption. He was confident that the present government will steer the country out of current economic challenges. Aisha Ghaus Pasha of the PML-N said the government has further increased the debt trap by taking unprecedented loans in just 10 months of its rule. She said the government has presented an ‘irrational’ budget, and that it will be very difficult to achieve the revenue target of over five thousand billion rupees. Responding to Aisha Ghaus Pasha, Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar said she left budget deficit of Rs 1300 billion in Punjab when she was the provincial minister there.