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Slippage in ease of doing business cause of concern: Dar

Finance Minister Ishaq has said the slippage of country's rank in ease of doing business report of the World Bank from 128 to 138 was a matter of serious concern for the government. Speaking at the concluding session of investment conference organised by board of investment (BOI) Thursday, he said "unless we improve our position, investors will be reluctant to come to Pakistan" and acknowledged that the decline in ranking from 128 to 138 was an area of concern for him.

He directed BoI and its Chairman Dr Miftah Ismail to come up with concrete measures to improve the country's ranking. Dar said findings of the report were shared with him by the World Bank in these words "Pakistan is slipping in terms of ease of doing business".

The Minister also spoke in detail on the state of the economy and maintained that when the present government came to power two and half years ago default was predicted for the country and global rating agencies gave Pakistan a poor rating. Tax to GDP ratio was very low and fiscal deficit and inflation were on the higher side, he added. The government's roadmap was to avert default and as a result of deep structural reforms as many as 22 rating agencies recognise that Pakistan is now a stable country in terms of macroeconomic indictors. He said fiscal deficit has been reduced by half during the last two years, reserves are now at an all time high and the country has successfully entered in the bond market with the launch of Euro and Sukuk bonds.

The Finance Minister gave March 2018 as the deadline when load shedding would end. He stated "by March 2018, Pakistan will add 10600MW to the system that would help meet domestic demand and ensure full time availability of power to the industry;" however the Prime Minister while addressing the same conference a day before had stated that "the government is building three major gas-based power plants, and by 2017, when the new plants come online, we expect to end load-shedding in Pakistan".

The Minister said that once the energy and extremism are taken care of, country would be on rapid path of economic growth and the foreign investors would have no regret in terms of choosing Pakistan as a destination for their investments. He also added that other countries have also started showing interest to make investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The Minister once again called upon all the political parties to agree on an economic roadmap with joint ownership.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Revenue said the there was a tremendous pressure on Pakistan to include fiscal offence in Anti Money Laundering (AML) and Pakistan being part of the international community has to comply with global standards. He added that basically AML was designed to track down terror financing. Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Senior Member Inland Revenue Policy Shahid Hussain Asad in reply to a question about a disparity of 20 percent corporate tax on foreign investment as compared to 40 per cent for local investment, stated the government has to offer some tax exemptions to attract foreign direct investment which has sunken since 2007. He added that local investors have already been enjoying some other incentives as well.

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