With the recent announcement of the budget FY 2017-18, the agriculture sector has received little or no new support schemes to provide relief to the farmers. Despite the protests staged by leading farmer associations, in front of the Parliament House, on the day of budget presentation, their demands were largely ignored.
Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) — a representative body of farmers and several other agricultural experts had suggested a waiver of General Sales Tax (GST) and the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) on fertiliser prices, to support the agricultural sector. Before the new budget was announced, withdrawal of all taxes on the cost of farm-inputs, soil-nutrition and farm-machinery, was being demanded, during the talks held between farmer-community leaders and the policy-makers. But, apparently, all these demands have been bluntly rejected by the federal government in the new budget proposals.
Previously, the government had considered a major tax-proposal to completely abolish the General Sales Tax (GST) on urea and Di-Ammonium Phosphate (DAP) fertilisers, in the next financial year, but the budget did not feature any such reforms to support higher yields and farm productivity.
The reduction of GST and GIDC on both the inputs and outputs was a crucial need. While the introduction of support-prices for major crops like; cotton, rice, potato and corn was also needed to achieve the desired impact on the economy and to make Pakistan more competitive and sustainable in the international markets. These decision must be taken urgently to ensure the economic well-being of the huge farmer community in the country.
Another suggestion, which could have truly revolutionized our agriculture sector in the long-term was that the federal government should have encouraged the technological advancement of agriculture, through bio-tech enhancements, farm-mechanisation, and optimisation of storage and faster transportation of the crops. Over the years, the federal policies have surely played a vital part in starting a revival process for agriculture, but it needs constant escalation for consistent economic growth and prosperity of the farmers.
It is believed that; Pakistan’s agriculture sector has the potential to achieve tremendous growth and contribute majorly in multiplying our GDP. Hence, the government must extend increasingly effective support to this essential sector.
The farmer community argues that; this new budget has not given any additional incentive to revive the ailing agriculture sector of the country. They were hoping that government would announce new schemes and subsidies, besides waiving off the taxes which are a big hurdle in faster development.
Muzaffar, Anwar. Nothing for farmers. Daily Times, June 18, 2017.