Development expenditure increased by 37pc: minister
Punjab Finance Minister Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha has said that the Punjab government has increased development expenditure in Punjab by 37pc. The growing population has been a big impediment to growth. In the past, she said, loadshedding had crippled the economy of Punjab and now improving energy sector has also been the top priority of the government.
She said this while speaking at a consultative meeting on tax reforms and public-private dialogue in Punjab held by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in collaboration with Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) on Thursday. The meeting was participated by a large number of experts and representatives from various public as well private sector entities related to trade, business and economy. The participants discussed the present federal and provincial tax regimes in length and suggested various corrective measures to improve the state of national economy.
The minister said through better education and skill development, the government was trying to improve human resource capital in the country. During next few years, skills of more than 2 million people will be developed under this vision. Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha said the government was busy in a broader consultation with academia and private sector to redress the factors that were deterring economy from growth. She added improving the lives of people should be the main area of the focus for all the provincial governments. She said: “We have urged the federal government to take measures on its part to improve the business climate in Pakistan whereas the Punjab government has envisaged a strategy to mobilise tax revenues. The government aimed to improve tax mechanisms through automation that include electronic collection of taxes and computerised land records as well. We want to develop a ‘tax culture’ in Punjab whereas an economic council in Punjab would be formulated to bring together the private sector, academia and other stakeholders together to find common solutions to boost our economy”.
Agha Waqar Javed, member, planning and development board, Punjab on the occasion said the government wanted to promote private-sector led growth in Punjab. He said the Planning and Development Department was mandated to conduct a review of the service delivery of all public sector enterprises in Punjab that would help us to identify the areas that need improvement.
Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director SDPI, said the high expenses on debt servicing and defence were leaving very little fiscal space for development expenditures. The government needs more broad based sources of revenue. He said the business community was willing to pay taxes but the government should take steps to eliminate double taxation and ought to facilitate tax payers. He said the think tanks could provide the government valuable input and suggestions; however, it’s the discretion of the government to avail the consultation while keeping in view the other ground realities or constraints.
Ch Qamar Uz Zaman, President Lahore Tax Bar Association (LTBA), opined that the overlapping mandates of federal and provincial government in tax collection need to be resolved.
Javed Ahmed, Member Operations, Punjab Revenue Authority, said that the tax authorities were minimising interface with public and now tax payments of PRA could be deposited in Bank of Punjab. Amjad Ali Java, Senior Vice President, Lahore Chamber of Commerce suggested that inter-provincial tax harmonisation whereas all tax revenue authorities in Punjab should be merged with Punjab Revenue Authority. Dr Vaqar Ahmed of SDPI said that the tax authorities should have a coordinated outreach campaign to increase public confidence in a fair and just tax regime. He said the federal and provincial tax authorities should work together to broad base of direct taxes to reduce the regressive withholding taxes and to rationalize indirect tax rates.
Dr Shehla Javed Akram, President Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries (Lahore Division), said PRA was charging 16pc on entire value of apparel services which was too high and thus, hurting the industry. Rizwan Shinwari, Excise Taxation and Narcotics Department, said: “We need a study to evaluate actual expense required to run an efficient state”. Besides others, Hammad Siddiqui, country director, Center for International Private Enterprise, Asad Islam, Member Board of Revenue, Government of Punjab, Waqar Ahmed, Nestle Pakistan, Huzaima Bukhari, Advocate High Court, Nasira Taskeen, Member Executive Board, Lahore Chamber and Dr Kamal Monoo, senior entrepreneur shared their views on different aspects of the topic.