Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said the manner in which the country is being run cannot lead to progress. He said the country will face severe financial difficulties if steps were not taken for enhancing the tax revenue.
The prime minister took the FBR’s top hierarchy into confidence over the proposed reforms plan for converting it into the Pakistan Revenue Authority (PRA) and assured them that no action plan would be implemented without consultations. The premier was addressing the top officials of the FBR in grade 21 and 22 at the PM’s Office.
The premier asked the officers to speak out and then the chief commissioners from the Inland Revenue Service and Customs officials spoke on the occasion and asked the premier to bring reforms in the FBR, but only after conducting in-depth consultations with them. They said different regimes misused the FBR so the tax machinery as a whole could not be blamed if the rulers asked them to issue SROs without due diligence.
Immediately after the speech of the prime minister, FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi tweeted that the timelines with reference to ‘re-organisation’ of the FBR as given in October 3, 2019 letter of the reforms approved by the prime minister shall be put on hold. The PM’s explicit statement is that reforms in the FBR will be undertaken after taking officers on board.
The prime minister said people will be eager to pay tax if they are assured that their money will be spent on public welfare instead of lavish lifestyle of rulers. He said currently, the government has no money to spend on masses as it inherited record deficit. He instructed the FBR officials to take measures to restore confidence of the business community by ending their fear and their apprehensions regarding the tax machinery.
The PM stated that the collection of Rs8 trillion tax was not difficult unless all the stakeholders considered it as their national responsibility and sacred duty to work for the achievement of this task. The government has assigned revenue collection target of Rs5.5 trillion for 2019-20.
To a question, the prime minister said it is our national duty to collect tax. He said making money through legal means is not a crime and the government should encourage the business community in this regard. He said the country cannot move ahead without wealth creation and we have to promote businesses in Pakistan. He said his government is committed to provide business-friendly environment to entrepreneurs.
He said the general masses were generous in charity giving, but reluctant to pay taxes, as they have no trust in the existing tax system, and urged the FBR officials to devise reforms which could restore peoples’ confidence in the tax machinery besides enhancing their performance coupled with easy tax payment system. He said Pakistan had been at the historical crossroads and his government was committed for reforms in the revenue and tax systems which had already been started.
The government through holistic approach had been introducing all bracing reforms, with exports witnessing a surge and the stock exchange was gaining momentum, he added.
Imran Khan also expressed satisfaction over the country’s enhanced performance in the ease of doing business as its business outlook had been enhanced by 7 percent.
He said the country could not run on the old pattern as the present government had inherited the biggest financial deficit and current account deficit. Half of the tax collection in the first year was spent on debt servicing, he added.
The country had huge potential in terms of its young population and if they were provided with opportunities, the country could progress on path of prosperity, he added.
He said the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) had entered into another phase which would spur industrialisation and business opportunities across the country. He regretted that in Pakistan, the past rulers took it as their prerogative to spend the public tax money on their personal requirements. He expressed the resolve that his government would spend the public money on the welfare and uplift of the public.
Meanwhile, the prime minister said the country’s economy had been stabilised as a result of measures taken by the present government.
Addressing a tripartite signing ceremony between MSD Tire and Rubber Company, Doublestar China and Dawood Pakistan Express Bus Service Limited here, he said current account deficit has been curtailed and the rupee has also stabilised.
The prime minister was confident that Pakistan will achieve higher growth rate than the one projected for the current fiscal year. “We are giving incentives to the construction to uplift this important sector of the economy. We are also extending facilities to the investors,” he said.
Imran Khan said world institutions including the IMF, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank have also endorsed that the country is heading in the right direction. He said the World Bank has improved Pakistan’s ease of doing business ranking by 28 points. Imran Khan, however, stressed that the government’s next challenge is to provide job opportunities to the youth by bringing in the investment. For this, he said the government will fully facilitate the investors.
The prime minister vowed to economically uplift the country by bolstering exports and attracting the foreign investment. He said that the agreement between Pakistani and Chinese companies is aimed at local production of tires. He said this will not only help reduce the import bill but export of tires will build up foreign exchange reserves.
The prime minister welcomed the Chinese investment in different sectors and said Pakistan will encourage more Chinese investment by providing them an enabling environment. He said several agreements have already been signed with China and the CPEC provides the platform to further bolster the economic partnership between the two countries.
Meanwhile, chairing a meeting to review progress on PSDP, Imran Khan stressed the need for ensuring optimal and timely utilisation of funds allocated by the federal government under Public Sector Development Program. He instructed the Planning Commission to come up with a monthly performance review report so as to determine the reasons behind the under-utilisation of the funds allocated for the vital PSDPs. He said policies need to be well-thought-out and harmonised to yield desired results.