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KARACHI: The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) is ‘surprised’ after dwelling upon the details of the Finance Bill-2022-23, as the apex trade body apprehends that the PML(N)-led coalition government will come up with mini-budgets in order to achieve its revenue target of Rs 7 trillion for the next fiscal year.

FPCCI President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh while addressing a post-budget press conference at Federation House on Monday said that the budget details have given many surprises to the traders. “It is becoming clear that mini budgets are coming,” he said.

He said the unprecedented hike in electricity and gas prices will lead to a storm of inflation, and surely increase cost of doing business, making it hard for the country to achieve 5 percent economic growth target.

The major challenge ahead is the expending current account deficit which will touch around $17 billion, and the country will have to make debt repayments of $23 billion, the FPCCI president said. “We have no details as to how the government is going to make such arrangements, from where these payments will come…..? We are at lowest in terms of tax to GDP which stood around 7.5 percent in July-March 2022, and FDI is down to just $1.4 billion,” he said.

Irfan said that agriculture is base of our economy. However, budgetary proposal for enhancing sales tax on fertilizer from the existing 5 percent to 10 percent has created sense of uncertainly amongst the farmers about the cost of production.

Real estate sector which attracts some 60 percent overseas investment has been bombed with imposition of wealth taxes in duplication, he said.

The government has not incorporated a number of recommendations of FPCCI such as broadening of tax base, long term growth through private sector investment, special focus on promotion of industrialization, more spending on education and healthcare, promotion of local industry through tariff rationalization, etc.

IT and overseas employment is crucial to steer the country out the economic crisis. The country can fetch around $15 billion from IT exports within a couple of years. However, this budget lacks proper planning for the skill development of our potential youths who constitute some 60 percent of the total population. He expressed his dismay over low budgetary allocation of around Rs 17 billion for the IT sector. “With more than 7 million overseas Pakistanis across the globe, our remittances stand at some $ 30 billion, while Philippine fetches $33 billion remittances from only 2.5 million overseas,” Irfan said.

He demanded abolishment of SRO system, once and for all, saying 50 percent time and energy of traders is wasted while engaging with different departments.

The FPCCI leadership demanded that all stakeholders be included in the anomalies committee so as to address the issues that have emerged after the budget announcement. The Federation is working for the Charter of the Economy and will soon call political parties in the Federation House to discuss the economic agenda.

Former President FPCCI Naser Hayat Maggo on this occasion said that rising electricity prices would make it difficult to do business and many factories would close down.

Senior Vice President Suleiman Chawla, Vice Presidents Engineer Jabbar, Haji Yaqub, Shabbir Mansha, Former Senior Vice President Abdul Raheem Janu, Former Vice President Muhammad Hanif Lakhani and others were also present at the post budget press conference.

Irfan announced that in line with its vision to enhance exports, the FPCCI is going to hold conferences on agriculture and IT in July this year.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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