Efforts under way to decouple economy from politics: Dar

WEB DESK: Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that here on Wednesday that efforts are under way to separate the economy from politics for achieving 18th ranking in the world’s good economies as against the current ranking of 44. “Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and China and other countries are willing to invest in Pakistan as the world has realised that Pakistan is set to take off,” he added.

This, he stated, at a meeting of Multan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI) held here under the chairmanship of its president Fareed Mughis A. Sheikh. Prime Minister’s adviser on revenue Haroon Akhtar Khan, FBR chairman Nisar Muhammad Khan and Ausaf Ali Khan were also present.

The minister said that the government has reduced the inflation and stabilised economy by avoiding printing of currency notes. With regard to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, the minister said that S46 billion being spent by China under the CPEC was not a loan.

Dar said that automobile policy which would be finalised within a couple of weeks would be introduced after seeking Economic Co-ordination Committee’s approval. New technology-based motorcycles, cars and other vehicles would also be introduced very soon. The minister said that the PML-N government particularly laid emphasis on four Es ie extremism, revival of the economy, surmounting energy crisis and improving the state of affairs in the education sector. “We have brought discretionary funds from Rs 42 billion to zero level, increased per capita income, alleviated poverty, increased development funds to Rs 700bn and raised agricultural loans to Rs 600bn, he said.

Reiterating that SME bank would be revived in collaboration with private sector, the minister said that the government’s objective of achieving higher growth and creating jobs could only be materialised with the help and support of the private sector. He said that the government was continuously striving to provide best possible environment to the private sector so that it could play its role in an effective manner.

The minister vowed that the government would release the refunds to some 34,000 taxpayers. The FBR will return Rs 5 million to each of 34, 000 taxpayers and the amount would be cleared by March 15, 2016. He said that the PML-N government inherited the refunds from the previous government and would start paying back the amount very soon to the taxpayers.

He said that PML-N government had introduced business-friendly economic policies and it didn’t want to adopt coercive measures for increasing the country’s tax net. The government, he added, by accepting all workable suggestions of traders had introduced a voluntary tax compliance scheme for the non-filer traders. Dar said that the government with a view to facilitating traders had introduced a one-page tax return from, both in English and Urdu. The FBR will not investigate the new taxpayers about their previous accounts and will not take legal action against them for the next four years, he added.

Praising the policies of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the minister claimed that he was not taking dictation from foreign lending agencies, instead following the PML-N’s manifesto concerning tax reforms.

The purpose of the government was to boost the business community’s confidence for filing their returns and pay regular taxes, he said, adding that if the tax to GDP ratio reached 15 per cent, the government’s annual budget deficit would become zero per cent. He noted that the budget deficit had already gone down from 8.8pc to 4.4pc.

Claiming that the FBR’s tax collection had increased from Rs 19.44bn to 25.81bn in the two years, he said the government had set new target of Rs 31 billion tax collection in the current fiscal year. Ishaq Dar also appreciated the vision of Nawaz Sharif, saying all political parties needed to have a charter of economy for better future of the country. The minister said that he was following Turkey’s model of reforms for enhancing the tax net and had succeeded in boosting the traders’ confidence.

The minister said the government needed to increase revenue collection by 25pc to meet this year’s target and he and his team was prepared to sit with the business community to discuss their issues. MCCI president Fareed Mughis Sheikh appreciated the government’s policy of consultations with the representatives of the traders and businessmen across the country.

The other issues that came under discussion at the meeting included sales tax record, powers of commissioners (Inland Revenue), access to bank accounts, tax relief for senior citizens, tax advisory committee’s activation, flat electricity tariff for agriculture sector, setting up of cold storage-cum-cargo at Multan airport, rate of withholding tax on local sales and services provided to five export-oriented sectors, setting up of appellate tribunals, inadmissibility of input tax and delay in refunds.

The MCCI chief said that revenue collection would receive a considerable boost if smuggling and unnecessary import of luxury items were checked. He suggested that customs duty on smuggling-prone items should be reduced to discourage the practice. Former Punjab minister Khawaja Jalaluddin Roomi proposed that National Health Insurance should be made mandatory for all, ensuring premium is paid by both the government and employers. The PCGA chairman Shehzad Ali Khan demanded that seed act be approved forthwith and exemplary punishment be awarded to the sellers of spurious and uncertified seed. Kh. Muhammad Yousaf and others also spoke on the occasion.

Source: Business Recorder