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Published Date: Jul 19, 2019

Govt. and IMF are on the same page, Shabbar Zaidi Stabilization is critical for the growth, Dr Shamshad IMF wanted progress on FATF conditions, strengthen anti-corruption institutions, IMF Representative

Chairman, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Syed Muhammad Shabbar Zaidi said the incumbent government and the International Monitory Fund (IMF) are on the same page, as there was no disagreement by the government on the measures proposed by the IMF, especially the taxation measures. He said taxation is the only way forward for equitable distribution of wealth, as we cannot have stabilize and equitable society unless we have a fare taxation system.

He sated this during a Policy Symposium on Pakistan Economy & IMF Programme: Challenges & Opportunities organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), here at Islamabad. He said the government will not bow down against the pressure, protests and lame excuses of the businesses and industries.

Shabbar Zaidi said over the decades the policies of the successive governments make Pakistan a trading state rather a sami-manufacturing state, where we are importing everything from mineral water to foods items and never worked-out on import substitution. Due to presumptive tax regime, we actually divorce the taxation from the economy where taxing the real income was out of question, he lamented. He express resolve of the government that the real income will have to be taxed and there was no 2nd opinion on it.    

While raising the concerns over the open transit trade agreement with Afghanistan, he said the agreement was being exploited and abused by the smugglers which negatively impacted the local industry. He said Pakistan needs to review this agreement and should take stringent measures to control illicit trade on Pak-Afghan border.

There are around 100 thousand companies registered with the government of Pakistan, where only 60 thousands file their returns, which shows the level of tax compliance. He said the measures taken in the current federal budget will fundamentally change the course of history of Pakistan. The government is taking steps to redress the institutional corruption through automation of the taxation system, he added.

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Former Finance Minister said stabilization of the economy was very critical for the growth of the country, where one should not look stabilizations in isolation, rather a step-forward towards economic growth. She said there is no gain without pain, and that is what stabilization is based upon which we will have to face. After the period of stabilization coupled with key structural reforms across the board, the economy will get out of crisis, she added. The major economic challenge of the country is high consumption, low production and low savings and investments. The gap is widening between saving and investments, which pushed the country to seek foreign assistance, she added.

While commenting on IMF programme, Dr Shamshad said the substantial delayed in going to IMF programme compounded the uncertainty, which negatively impacted the economy. She said if we negotiated the programme earlier, the country’s economy would probably be in the safer zone. The investor’s confidence has gradually eroded, which the government needs to looked at, she added. IMF polices usually are dynamic which may help Pakistan address fiscal imbalances, she hoped.

Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director said at the very beginning there was lack ownership from the government on the IMF programme, which makes the programme controversial. He said the letter of intent of the current government to IMF focused on expanding social safety nets to cushion the impact of the needed stabilization policies on the poor, which is a positive step. However, the government needs to strengthen its social protection programmes and should focus on direct taxation to help reduce burden on the vulnerable segment of the society, he added.

Maria Teresa Daban Sanchez, Resident Representative, International Monitory Fund (IMF), Pakistan Office said $6 bn Extended Fund Facility (EFF) programme for Pakistan aim to support the economic reform programme of the country. She said the programme focuses on decisive fiscal consolidation to reduce public debt and build resilience while expanding social spending. The programme will help Pakistan reduce economic vulnerabilities and generate sustainable and balanced growth, she added. Moreover, the programme is expected to unlock broader support from multilateral and bilateral creditors in excess of US$38 billion, which is crucial for Pakistan to meet its large financing needs in the coming years.

She said the goals of the IMF package in the medium term is debt sustainability, stronger tax collection, an independent central bank, market determined exchange rates regime, and moderate inflation trajectory. “We wanted more autonomy for the central bank, strengthening tax policy administration, reforming the energy sector, modernizing the state owned enterprises, strengthening anti-corruption institution, and progress on Financial Action Task Force (FATF) condition”, she added. Moreover, on FATF conditions, she said failure to get out of the FATF grey list could have implications of capital inflows to Pakistan.