On Sunday, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance said that the accountability process should progress in such a manner as does not negatively affect the business climate as the country heading fast towards economic stability due to timely and prudent measures taken by the PTI government.
Speaking at a news conference chaired by Federal Board of Revenue Chairman Shabbar Zaidi and Secretary Finance Naveed Kamran Baloch, he said stability and certainty had not yet reached a level that triggered foreign and domestic investment, as ‘people normally wait for a certain level of certainty in taking big decisions’, But there had been considerable growth in exports with sizable reduction of 73% in the current account deficit, and stable stock market, foreign exchange reserves and rupee-dollar parity.
The overall revenue collection had also increased to Rs 580 billion during the first two months of the current year from Rs 509 billion of the corresponding period of last year, showing 25 percent growth, Advisor said.
The advisor said the top priority of the government was to reduce inflation, inflation rate was lower than what they were expecting and it would hopefully come down further in next few months, to control inflation government had taken several measures, including a freeze on borrowing from the central bank, reduced or no duties on raw material imports, passing on the benefit of lower international oil prices to consumers and ban on export of key commodities.
“We will provide every facility to the businesses but there would be no compromise when it comes to tax payment. The people should now have confidence that results of tough decisions taken by the government have started to accrue,” he reiterated.
An inter-agency body was in place to ensure effective implementation of anti-money laundering decisions to help the country get out of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list, said while addressing in conference.
Responding to questions regarding harassment of executives and bureaucrats by anti-corruption agencies, Mr Shaikh said businesses were more important than the government, because the former generated job opportunities and economic activities that the government supported through its policies. “I wish accountability agencies do their job in a manner that does not negatively affect the business climate,” he said.
On its part, he said, the government’s key goal was to improve conditions for investors and businessmen and hence it was taking a series of measures towards Ease of Doing Business while exporters were being offered subsidy in electricity, gas and facilitated for taking bank loans. He claimed that the country had moved out of the crisis inherited by the present government and was gradually turning to stability. “It is not possible to suddenly reach the goalpost so quickly after the crisis,” he added.
Hafeez Shaikh said the government had also fulfilled its pledge of clearing all the verified sales tax refund claims of around Rs 22 billion, filed till 2015, which benefited some 10,000 people.
He said the government had introduced a new system with no human intervention to ensure immediate refunds to the exporters.
Under the system, which was being labeled as ‘Faster’ and operational since August 23, refund claims of the previous month would be cleared by the 16th of the next month, he added.
Talking about power sector reforms, he said the circular debt, which had been reduced to just Rs10 billion from Rs 38 billion per month, would be zero by December next year.
Mr Shaikh said the growth rate target of 2.4pc for the current year was expected to be surpassed easily, as the corrective measures introduced by the government had started to yield results, particularly in the agriculture sector.
Asked about the stability phase, the advisor said after assuming the charge, the PTI government focused on the external sector and reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund which had been widely appreciated.
Dr Shaikh said the government had reactivated the Sarmaya Pakistan Company for fast-track restructuring of 20 loss-making public sector entities and put 10 new companies to the privatization list and issued their advertisements for fast-track sale process. He said the power sector companies particularly distribution companies (Discos) were being prepared for privatization. Also, large well-performing entities like NBP and SLIC who could not improve further on their own would also be considered for speedy transfer to the private sector to achieve their true potential.
When reminded that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had opposed the privatization of state-owned enterprises and supported agitation when the previous government had planned to offload them and why he expected the current opposition to act otherwise, Dr Shaikh said: “Every opposition had the right to oppose good things.”
Responding to question, the adviser said the government was hoping to deliver 0.6pc of primary balance committed to the IMF through higher non-tax revenue, expenditure control, economic activities, and macroeconomic stability. He said some quarters had wrongly interpreted a scheduled visit of an IMF director to Pakistan that was ‘purely a routine matter’ and had nothing to do with the program review on a quarterly basis.
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17 November, 2019