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Print Print 2024-05-13

Aurangzeb spells out priorities

  • Says improving tax-to-GDP ratio, fast privatisation of state-owned enterprises and overhauling energy sector are priorities of the government
Published May 13, 2024

LAHORE: Federal Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said on Sunday that improving the tax-to-GDP ratio, fast privatisation of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and overhauling the energy sector are priorities of the government.

“Macroeconomic stability has been witnessed over the last few months and there is a need to move forward for sustainable economic growth,” he said, adding: “The private sector must come forward to lead and steer the economy of difficult time.”

He was addressing a pre-budget conference 2024-25, which was organised jointly by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and Business Recorder at a local hotel today.

FY2024-25: FPCCI, BR organising Pre-Budget Conference today

The Minister said that the role of the government is to provide policies while the private sector should ensure productivity in real terms.

Pre-budget conference 2024-25

“We would move forward after consultation with the provinces; we want growth and development in the country,” he said, adding: “We had to change the fundamental equation; the country’s big issue is the undocumented economy.”

“We need structural reforms and lower the current account and budget deficits. He added that the salaried segment of the society is a part of the tax net and likewise, the business community has to be made a part of it. The country’s economy will be documented from now on. Let me make it very clear that we have to broaden the tax net. This is the need of Pakistan.”

He added that they had to expand the tax net to boost the tax-to-GDP ratio, currently around 9 percent, which is one of the worst in the world. He averred that the track and trace system was a tremendous failure due to implementation failures and lacked mechanisms. “We had to stop leakages and bring untaxed sections into the tax net,” he added.

He recalled that when he was in the private sector and headed the Business Council, there was Rs 10 trillion cash in circulation; “when we talk about the undocumented economy, I had said there was ‘war on cash,’ if we document the economy, the size of the country’s economy is much bigger.”

Talking about the registration of traders, he said that April was voluntary for registration, but now they have to move forward by removing impediments and overcoming the trust deficit.

Terming the digitalisation of the tax system vital for modernising tax collection, enhancing transparency and revenue growth, the Minister said that a contract has been signed with the global consulting firm McKinsey and Company to digitalise the tax system. “Digital transformation is a key priority for the government, and this collaboration underscores the government’s commitment to improving tax collection to promote sustained economic growth. We look forward to seeing the positive impact of this initiative on Pakistan’s economy,” he remarked.

Earlier, addressing the participants of the conference, the minister said that the government’s work is to make policies that have to be implemented mainly by the private sector; it has to play its role in bringing the economic situation out of difficult times. He said that privatisation will have to be done for economic stability.

He highlighted that the country’s foreign currency reserves have crossed the US $9 billion mark and the confidence of foreign investors is improving due to the government’s effective economic policies.

He said an International Monetary Fund (IMF) team had reached Islamabad and the two sides would start talks for a new loan programme on Monday (today).

It may be noted that Pakistan is eyeing a larger and longer IMF programme, to stabilise and revive its economy. The dialogue would determine the size and scope of the new deal. However, it was earlier reported that the government wanted a three to four-year bailout package of $6 billion and $8 billion.

Muhammad Aurangzeb said that Pakistan was currently applying for the 24th IMF programme and would require the 25th, as well, if structural reforms were not introduced.

He said that the country’s exchange rate is to be brought down to facilitate the businessmen. He added that the currency is stable and the stock exchange is hitting an all-time high due to portfolio investment by foreign investors, which is a good sign. He noted that the industries cannot function at 25 to 26% interest rate.

He covered a variety of subjects, including the rupee exchange rate and interest rates, which are determined by the State Bank of Pakistan.

The Minister said competitive energy is the solution and they are bringing reforms in the energy sector. “We had to check power pilferage,” he said. He said that Discos’ Board of Governors is being reconstituted by the Power Minister and private sector people are included in it.

He also said that they would accelerate the privatisation agenda. He cited that local investors are in the run to get PIA and Islamabad airport.

He also advocated for the promotion of women’s entrepreneurship and facilitating them.

He said that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is pouring in from Saudi Arabia, China and the EU due to investment initiatives taken through SIFC.

Responding to queries from business leaders, the minister said that agriculture and Information Technology are under our control and we need to strengthen both sectors.

To another query about issues of SMEs, he said that consultation will be made with the chambers of small traders. He said he had already asked the CEOs of banks to increase financing in SMEs, IT and agriculture sectors. He concluded his speech by saying that they would have to move forward by overcoming the trust deficit and introducing a balanced approach.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Comments

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User May 13, 2024 08:33am
@Usman, read the whole., they are getting electricity@8 where as here in Pk we are getting electricity@ 45pkr and in peak time even@60pkr per unit
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Nadeem Sheikh May 13, 2024 09:36am
Please also look at eliminating the expenses we bear for the Protocols of government functionaries. I mean, someone is paying for all that from his hard earned money.
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Mark May 13, 2024 09:59am
Mr Aurangzeb, first stop doling out free electricity, petrol, cars, drivers and servants, (no holy cows) then go after selling Govt owned enterprises. Who needs tax-free bullet-proof cars,
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Chawla.i May 13, 2024 11:29am
Reduce interest rates shd b d Top priority as o.wise the whole economic cycle doesnt run as SME s r dying as no fina inst helped them nor they afford 30%markup Its direly needed
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Pakistani May 13, 2024 12:45pm
Mr. FM, great plan. Hope you will be allowed to implement it. You have forgotten a critical part, Expenses! How about reducing the expenses incurred by the Government as a priority?
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Asghar Ali May 13, 2024 01:55pm
Competitive power rate are much needed to revive large scale manufacturing and should be on top priority
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