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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin has asked the provinces to rationalise expenditure and harmonise taxation policies for a growth-oriented budget.

Shaukat Tarin also urged the provincial administrations to adhere to strict financial discipline and workout modalities to rationalise expenditure and divert savings towards socio-economic development in the provinces.

He held meetings with the provincial finance ministers as a part of an overall consultative process with key stakeholders including provinces to seek valuable inputs for formulation of a ‘people-friendly growth-oriented’ budget.

On Tuesday, he held separate meetings with finance ministers of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments and encouraged consultative process between the federal government and the federating units for effective resource mobilisation.

Finance Minister for Punjab Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht briefed the federal finance minister about the overall fiscal position and upcoming budget considerations during the meeting.

Bakht briefed about the steps taken by the Punjab government to provide maximum relief to the vulnerable segments of society during these testing times.

He spelled out the vision and commitment of the Punjab government to increase revenues, control expenditure, create new jobs, reduce poverty and facilitate agriculture, industrial and service sectors to tap true potential of these sectors for an export-led growth.

Finance Minister for Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KP) Taimur Saleem Khan Jhagra also called on Shaukat Tarin, and briefed him about the efforts undertaken by the provincial government to curtail expenditure and rationalise spending with a key focus on providing maximum relief to the masses in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic.

Jhagra also outlined measures taken to enhance provincial tax collection by expanding tax base and reducing the number of taxes.

He briefed the federal finance minister about KP government’s commitment efforts aimed at streamlining pay and pension expenditure, which takes the biggest chunk of the overall budget.

Tarin urged the provincial administrations to adhere to strict financial discipline and work out modalities to rationalise expenditure and divert savings towards socio-economic development in the province, particularly amid Covid-19 and in post-pandemic scenarios.

Tarin underscored the need for stimulating economic activity through out-of-the-box thinking for enhancing revenues, rationalising workforce and harmonising tax structures aimed at improving service delivery in the province.

While discussing budget proposals, Tarin stressed that education and health are the key priority areas and must be given preference during the budget-making exercise.

He encouraged consultative process between the federal government and the federating units for effective resource mobilisation.

Tarin also emphasised the need for value-addition in the budget-making exercise.

He urged the provincial finance minister to rationalise expenditure and harmonise taxation policies for a growth-oriented budget.

Meanwhile, the finance minister held a meeting with Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Division Omar Ayub Khan.

The secretary EAD briefed the finance minister about the ongoing foreign funding portfolio with bilateral and multilateral development partners.

While reviewing the foreign funding portfolio, the finance minister outlined the priority areas for financial and technical support.

He emphasised the need for financing an ‘Agricultural Package’, which will include provision of commodity warehousing, cold storage facilities, and irrigation water management to strengthen infrastructure for boosting agricultural productivity.

Similarly, foreign funding would be utilised for supporting social protection and skill development programmes to protect under-privileged groups of society and to empower youth by imparting valuable skills.

It will also include swift processing of microcredit loans for youth empowerment.

The finance minister further directed to focus on strengthening civic amenities such as provision of clean drinking water, solid waste management and other such facilities in under-developed areas.

He expressed government’s firm commitment towards socio-economic development in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to achieve a better and more sustainable future for the people of Pakistan. The finance minister reiterated that the government will make all necessary interventions in collaboration with international development partners for human resource development and socio-economic uplift of the nation. The SAPM on Finance and Revenue, Dr Waqar Masood, Secretary Finance Division, the secretary EAD, and other senior officers also participated in the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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