ISLAMABAD: Laying emphasis that revenue and tax collection were the key drivers for economic stability, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to introduce reforms which would restore people’s confidence in the tax machinery.
Addressing the officials of FBR at his office on Wednesday, the premier said the main reason behind insufficient tax collection was the lack of people’s trust in the tax body.
The premier noted that the citizens generously donated money in charities but shirked of paying taxes. He directed the FBR to come up with a plan that would restore the confidence of a common man in the tax body, besides enhancing their performance coupled with easy tax payment system.
He assured the FBR officials that they would be fully taken on board on tax reforms as their role had been crucial in the country’s economic stability. He urged them to share their input and feedback on tax collection.
The premier observed that the government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was committed to reforms in the revenue and tax systems, which had already been started.
He maintained that the exports were witnessing a surge, while the stocks were gaining momentum.
PM Imran expressed satisfaction over the country’s enhanced performance in the ease of doing business as the business outlook had enhanced by 7 per cent.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Finance Adviser Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood, FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi and other senior officials were present in the session.
The premier stressed that without the efficient functioning of FBR, the country could not achieve financial stability.
“The country cannot progress in the fashion we are running it,” he said, adding that it was very important for the FBR to remove its fear among traders and industrialists.
Deliberating on the economic conditions in the country, PM Imran stated that the current government had inherited the biggest current account deficit. He declared that half of the tax collection in the first year had been spent on debt servicing.
He mentioned that tax collection of Rs8 trillion was not difficult if all the stakeholders considered it their national responsibility to work for the achievement of the task.
The prime minister warned of serious complications in future if steps for enhancing tax collection were not taken.
The premier regretted that in Pakistan the past rulers considered it a privilege to spend the public tax money on their personal requirements.
Talking about the steps he took to restore the confidence of taxpayers, he cited the austerity drive introduced by his government.
Under the drive, Prime Minister Imran said, his government had cut down Rs350 million expenditures of the Prime Minister House, beside slashing the federal government’s expenditures by Rs45 billion.
He added that he had banned foreign visits of all ministers except for the most essential purposes.
The prime minister said that the government entities including the governor houses were being converted into public places, thus bringing down their expenditures.
He cited the example of governor house in Murree where a sum of Rs830 million alone was spent in the past on its renovation.
The prime minister expressed the resolve that his government would spend the public money on the welfare and uplift of the public.
He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) had entered into another phase, which would spur industrialisation and business opportunities across the country.
Meanwhile, separately addressing the Sino-Pak Tire Manufacturing Joint Venture Signing Ceremony, the premier said that the government’s “next challenge” was to provide jobs to the people and, in order to create employment opportunities, the country needed investors.
“As investments increase […] and people get jobs, we believe that our economy’s growth rate will be higher than [what has been] predicted,” he told attendees.
The prime minister said that the government was focusing on the development of the construction sector and was also making efforts to facilitate foreign investors.
He pointed out that Pakistan had climbed 28 posts on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index.
Lauding the joint venture between automobile firms in Pakistan and China, Prime Minister Imran said that he was happy that tyres, which were previously being smuggled, would now be manufactured in the country.
“Our foreign exchange will increase with the export of goods,” he said. “The biggest crisis we keep facing is that our current account deficit [keeps increasing].
The prime minister said that relations between China and Pakistan were “better than ever before” and Beijing’s top leadership was taking an interest in initiating joint ventures.
Therefore, the premier maintained, it was imperative that the government “makes it easier for [Chinese companies] to enter [Pakistani] market”.
(This news/article originally appeared in The Express Tribune on November 14th, 2019)