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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Jun 1, 2013

The road ahead: Energy crisis, terrorism termed greate

The
energy crisis and armed insurgency in various parts of the country are the
biggest obstacles in economic growth, stated Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz
(PML-N) Member National Assembly-elect Khurram Dastgir on Friday.

He
was speaking at a discussion titled "New Government’s Plan of Action for 100
Days: Claims and Possibilities", organised by the South Asian Free Media
Association (SAFMA).  The discussion is part of its "What the People Want"
series which began before the general elections. The discussion was chaired by
Muhammad Ziauddin, the executive editor of The Express Tribune.

Dastgir
said PML-N is trying to resolve the energy crisis on a war-footing by cutting
non-developmental expenditures and diverting them to the energy sector. He
admitted that it will be a difficult task since 70 per cent of the
non-developmental expenditures are basically salaries for government employees.

Negotiations
with the Taliban might be a good option but it is not the only option for the
new government, Dastgir said. He said the various insurgencies are
fundamentally different in nature and must be dealt with a fine-grain strategy,
which would be announced by Nawaz Sharif once he takes oath.

He
said Pakistan’s foreign and security policies need to be reassessed and the
country’s international cooperation in the efforts to stop terrorism must be
given a legal basis.

Sustainable
Development Policy Institute (SDPI) executive director Abid Qayyum Suleri said
the next five years will be tough for the public. “Insecurity breeds insecurity
and all the threats Pakistan is facing are due to zero human security in the
country,” Suleri said.

He
said the government can improve the economy significantly just by ending the
Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) — a bureaucratic mechanism that has been
exploited in the past to bypass the legislature and provide tax breaks to
certain lobbies — culture.

Suleri
said the electricity shortage is the litmus test for the PML-N but he himself
will be convinced that the party has performed well if it appoints the heads of
corporations and regulatory bodies transparently on merit.

Journalist
Mubarak Zeb Khan suggested that the PML-N should focus on widening the tax
base, increasing tax compliance and reducing the tax gap. He said only 800,000
people in Pakistan — around 0.05 per cent of the population — pay taxes and the
number of taxpayers has dropped to 23 per cent in 2012 from 29 per cent in
2011.

Khan
also pointed out that there were around 2.03 million tax evaders just in the
province of Punjab, according to Nadra statistics.

Dastgir
agreed with the need for structural reforms. He said his party will appoint
people of "integrity, character and qualification" to run public sector
enterprises.