KARACHI: Finance Minister Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar has assured the leadership of Karachi Chamber that the government would do everything in its power to support the business & industrial sector through ease of doing business so that economic growth and stability in the country could be ensured.

“The government will put forward a business and people friendly budget for fiscal year 2023–24”, he added while exchanging views at a meeting held at FBR Headquarters on Saturday with a delegation of Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) which was led by Chairman Businessmen Group Zubair Motiwala.

Minister of State for Finance & Revenue Dr. Aisha Ghous Pasha, SAPM on Finance Tariq Bajwa, SAPM on Revenue Tariq Mehmood Pasha, Chairman RRMC Ashfaq Tola, Governor SBP Jameel Ahmed, Chairman FBR Asim Ahmed, and senior officers from Finance Division and FBR were also present at the meeting whereas KCCI’s delegation comprised of Vice Chairmen BMG Anjum Nisar and Jawed Bilwani, President KCCI Mohammed Tariq Yousuf, Senior Vice President Touseef Ahmed, Vice President Haris Agar, Former Senior Vice President Ibrahim Kasumbi, Chairman Federal Taxation Subcommittee Abu Bakar Shamsi, Chairman Customs & Valuation Subcommittee Muhammad Arif and Chairman Banking & Insurance Subcommittee Asim Aejaz.

The Finance Minister, while praising KCCI‘s budgetary suggestions, underlined the government’s resolve to address the problems being faced by the business & industrial community. He said that the country was facing severe crises but the present government simply cannot be held responsible but appreciated for taking the responsibility to fulfill all the international commitments violated by the previous government. “The government has been trying in most difficult conditions to fulfill all the previous commitments to save Pakistan’s credibility which is the basic reason why the business community and the common man are finding themselves overburdened due to exorbitant electricity & gas tariffs along with general inflation.

“There’s no quick fix and it will take time as we had faced such challenges in 1998 and 2013 but all of those challenges were efficiently talked but it took time. In 2017, everyone was applauding Pakistan’s performance when the economy was performing at its peak with highest foreign reserves, lowest inflation while the stock markets were the best performing markets of the region”, he said, adding that Pakistan was going in the right direction but the political instability destroyed everything, plunging Pakistan’s economy from 24th position to 47th position in 2022 which is most painful for all of us.

“The most difficult reforms have been done and the bleeding is over. Pakistan will survive and we will collectively face all the challenges to put the country back on the track leading to progress and prosperity”, Ishaq Dar said, adding that it was the government’s top priority that no delay occurs in external payments and the same was promptly being done. “I reassure you that we will come out of economic crises and come up with new ideas and initiatives which the country actually deserves through agricultural revolution and special focus on IT.”

He said that the government would fully cooperate with the business community by accepting all their reasonable demands but the Wishlist should be kept limited as the country was going through very critical phase. 

Speaking on the occasion, Chairman BMG Zubair Motiwala stated that KCCI was well aware that the government faces fiscal issues, hence, the Chamber’s recommendations have been compiled in such a manner that these would not require fiscal space. “Our recommendations are mostly pertaining to efficiently dealing with those hurdles which are hindering trade and economic growth and paving way for corruption.”

He said that the foreign exchange held by the State Bank exhausts in imports of food and essential items and no funds are available to facilitate the imports of plants, machineries and spare parts etc. which needs to be addressed as it terribly affects the industrial production.

Highlighting several problems being faced by importers of raw materials and machineries, he stressed that a clear-cut policy has to be defined for clearance of payments against imported consignments while the banks must also be strictly regulated by SBP as it has been observed that bank were arbitrarily clearing import documents as per their wish & whim instead of merit.

He further said that CNIC number of unregistered buyers provided by registered seller/supplier must be treated at par with STRN. 3 percent Further Tax on supplies to unregistered buyer should not be charged, if CNIC number is provided by Registered seller in Sales Tax Return. This issue has been pending since long since many years and may please be resolved in this year’s budget”, he added.

Zubair Motiwala further stated that the buyers of Pakistani goods were shifting their orders to regional competitors including India and Bangladesh. “The government has to see that Bangladesh exports have risen by US$5 billion and ours have gone down with similar numbers which clearly shows how speedily we are giving away our exports share to rivals.”

“The recession in UK and US was unlikely to have any impact on our exports as, being low-end suppliers, we do not fall in that recession bracket but the core reason for losing exports in these important markets can only be attributed to high cost of doing business which must be brought down at par with Bangladesh and I assure you that we are capable enough to export even more than what Bangladesh exports”, said Chairman BMG.

President KCCI Mohammed Tariq Yousuf, in his remarks, stressed the need for introducing a tax friendly environment so that maximum number of individuals could be encouraged to get into the tax net. “In this regard, the government should look into the possibility of setting up a committee or think-tank comprising representatives of business community as well so that we could collectively work towards ensuring a tax friendly environment”, he added.

In the end, KCCI delegation members, while thanking the Finance Minister, hoped that maximum number of KCCI’s proposals for federal budget would be incorporated in this year’s budget as they have sincerely been submitted in the larger interest of the country.