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The Nation

Published Date: May 24, 2011

UNNECESSARY EXPENDITURES NOT RESOURCES A MAJOR CHALLENGES: EXPERTS

Experts on Mon­day at a seminar focusing up­coming budget 2011-12 said that poor governance and unneces­sary expenditures were the key challenges to the country not the resources.

Fiscal resources is not the real challenge but it is the ap­propriate utilisation, the country is facing the worst financial cri­sis of its history and the nation is looking at the budget as to whether it eases their ongoing sufferings or adds to their woes, experts said.

Dr Pervez Tahir, former chief economist at the Planning Com­mission of Pakistan, Sakib Sherani, former economic advi­SOl; Dr Athar Maqsood Ahmed, head of economics department at National University of Sci­ence and Technology (NUST), Mukhtar Ahmad All, Executive Director, Centre for Peace and

Development Initiatives (CPDD and Hafiz M Idrees of Income Tax Bar Association, RawalPindi spoke at the seminar on “Forthcoming Budget 2011-12: opportunities and Challenges” jointly organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Action Aid Pakistan. Dr Syed Nazre Hyder, Senior Economic Advisor at SDPI mod­erated the proceedings.

Dr Hyder while speaking on the occasion highlighted that the fiscal deficit was much higher than its target, revenue col­lection was not only short of target but also formed lowest tax-GDP ratio as compared to other developing countries, heavy subsidies to public sector enterprises, heavy payment of inter-corporal debt, inflation, unanticipated expenditures on Rehabilitation of displaced per­sons, and rehabilitation and re­construction of unprecedented flood-affected areas have been some of the key challenges. He added that despite such a grave situation, the data regarding current account balance and exports receipts seemed satis­factory.

Dr Pervez Thhir recommended widening of tax regime in­stead of focusing more on cur­rent approach of reinforcing rig­orous taxation on existing tax­ payers. He deplored that will ingness or courage to improve the tax net was missing at all. He said the country has currently 2.4 per cent growth rate involv­ing 2.2 per cent from services sector alone while the major sectors such as agriculture and industry were not contributing in this growth.

Sakili Sherani was of the view that there was no shortage of re­sources but the key challenge was efficient use, of available resources, which -has not been happening in this country due to bad governance and unneces­sary expenditures.

Talking of estimated cost of bad governance, he maintained that over 700 billion rupees can be collected through widening of tax regime, 330 billion rupees can be saved by addressing leak­ages and irregularities in public sector expenditures and power sector crisis was also cost~ 3.5 percent of GDP. ‘We have no fis­cal constraints but we have in­stitutional and governance cri­sis,” he added.

He urged that it was relevant to examine country’s context, which will significantly impact the budget decisions adding that the weakest GDp’ critical­ly low financial indicators, all time high decreased large scale manufacturing investment, law and order and persistent ener­gy crisis will impact the budg­et decisions.

He suggested that the export sector and over seven hundred thousand out-of-tax net Pak­istan’s elite who were evading the tax should be brought into tax net, which will contribute sig­nificantly to resource generation for country.

He said that at least four prin­ciples should be considered into budget-making process, which involved consideration of im­proving macro. Economic sta­bility, tax burden sharing by powerful elites, social protec­tion and keeping a deep sight of future challenges such as cli­mate change, water crisis and debt-servicing.

Mukhtar Ahmad Ali high­lighted low budgetary alloca­tions for education sector and said that out of total less than two per cent of education budg­et, 95 per cent was allocated for salaries leaving very little resources for improving the qual­ity of education.

He lamented over missing fo­cus on gender disparities in education and added that out of 42 new colleges and institutions built in 2008-09, only 8 were for women. Dr Athar was of the “view that currently country’s economy was in state of stagflation in­volving increased inflation with stagnant growth.

“Our real concern should be to sort out combination of policies to come out of this grave crisis situation.

We need to turn our attention towards bleeding public sector enterprises, more focus on rev­enue generation,” he went on saying.

Hafiz Idress highlighted inef­ficiency of FBR. Giving suggestion on broadening tax net, he proposed making National Tex Number (NTN) numbers com­pulsory for every transaction, sale, purchase, transfer and gifts. Also the agriculture sector should be brought under taxa­tion. He proposed rationalization of different taxes and expan­sion of tax regime while ending double taxation.