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Prime Minister Imran Khan has hit nail on the head as he is reported to have stated that the manner in which the country is being run cannot lead to progress. He has also said the country will face severe financial difficulties if steps are not taken towards enhancing the tax revenue.
The prime minister stated this last week while speaking to FBR's top hierarchy to explain to senior officials the country's dire needs for revenue enhancement and took them into confidence over the proposed reform plan of converting FBR into the Pakistan Revenue Authority (PRA). He assured them that no action plan would be implemented without consultations with them.
Earlier, in an unprecedented move, these officials had expressed their severe reservations on the reform plan rolled out by Chairman FBR invoking PM's intervention.
The premier encouraged the officers to contribute their suggestions to the plan. The PM is reported to have explicitly stated that reforms in the FBR will be undertaken only after taking the officials on board.
The prime minister however underlined the fact that people will only be motivated to pay tax if they are assured that their money will be spent on public welfare instead of lavish lifestyle of rulers. He said currently, the government has no money to spend on masses as it inherited a historic record deficit. He instructed the FBR officials to take measures to restore confidence of the business community by eliminating their fear and their apprehensions regarding the tax machinery.
This all sounds good. The challenge, however, is timing and delivery. Both are critical for the incumbent government in view of the timelines and revenue targets set by IMF for tax reforms and turn-around of the economy in general.
The consultation process in Pakistan is cumbersome and lengthy and the outcome is unpredictable at the end of the day. Critical milestones of the restructuring process rolled out by FBR now include: consultation process, consensus, roll-out of the plan, implementation phase and its results on ground. The Chairman FBR has a challenging job to wrap up all of it well before the budget 2020-21 to reap its benefits for the remaining part of the incumbent government's tenure.
Financial crisis is one of the impediments and fault-lines which the nation has been sustaining over the last seven decades with budget constraints from year to year and IMF programmes one after the other.
There are far severe fault-lines in state governance and socio-economic deliverance - be it the legislatures, judiciary, bureaucracy and other pillars of the state - all leading to growing poverty, poor healthcare and education facilities for the masses and growing environment challenges. With all these fault-lines the nation can never progress. Other nations in the region, who gained independence after Pakistan, have all set their directions and moved ahead.
State leader, if any, who ventured into moving Pakistan out of this malice and status quo has been ruthlessly checkmated by the fraternity of vested interest - well embedded in all the state institutions and the private sector.
PM Imran Khan who took up the herculean task of moving the nation out of this malice, in one-and-half years of his five-year tenure has now well recognised the fault-lines and has fathomed the depth and strength of this fraternity. It's a good start as many before him opted to ignore and just move with the waves, conveniently following the path of least resistance. This is one reason the nation has not moved on as its peers in the region have.
The big question is how to go about moving the nation out of this decades-long malice. It's indeed a formidable task requiring a herculean team to deliver, which is unfortunately the missing link. PM Imran Khan has a chance to achieve this rare distinction if he can raise a herculean team to accomplish a herculean task.
(The writer is former President of Overseas Investors Chambers of Commerce and Industry)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019