PBC delegation meets Finance Minister, discusses business policy

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ISLAMABAD: A delegation of the Pakistan Business Council (PBC) led by Ehsan Malik and Bashir Ali Mohammad met the Finance Minister, Dr Shamshad Akhtar here Thursday.

The meeting was attended by secretaries of the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform, the Ministry of Energy and Chairperson Federal Board of Revenue and additional secretary of the Ministry of Commerce.

The PBC CEO made a comprehensive presentation of the issues facing the corporate sector and shared proposals on strengthening the overall business environment and steps that could help boost different sectors of the economy.

Concerns were expressed regarding the trend towards deindustrialisation in the country as Pakistan industry lacked competitiveness given the high cost of power and gas and faces difficult business environment because of distortions in incentive framework and inconsistencies of policy regime.

The PBC delegation advocated for the provision of energy at competitive costs and addressing in a more holistic manner, the inefficiencies of DISCOs including their eventual privatization that has resulted in high cost of power to industry. At the same time, PBC emphasised broadening of tax base, reduction in indirect taxes and cascading duty structure. The delegates called for reduction and simplification and reduction in the number of taxes through the unification of multiple taxes and reduction in tax rates to strengthen tax-compliance.

The delegation also laid emphasis on the provision of the level playing field with the informal sector, with focus on steps for ease of doing business that would ultimately revitalize growth of industry and thus generate jobs, exports and revenues for the national exchequer to invest in social development. The delegation observed that there was a need to effectively tap the potential in the country’s housing sector as it could help generate a large number ofjob opportunities annually.

PBC called for the establishment of a high-level council including political leaderships as well as independent and corporate experts tasked to develop deeper structural reforms and achieve broader acceptability and consensus from various quarters concerned.

The finance minister appreciated the proposals put forth by the delegation, saying these would be valuable for the future elected government and PBC should send their detail tax and other proposals to Government so work can be launched by relevant ministries for consideration of new Government.  The Minister also stressed on lifting the quality standards of local products at par with international standards, saying this was necessary to discourage imports.

The minister agreed on the need for a more effective stakeholder consultation mechanism as it is critical that effective proposals offered to get adopted and implemented by the Government. Pakistan’s industry needs to examine all options of managing their competitiveness and she agreed on the need for dealing with root causes of the energy liabilities such as transmission and distribution losses that have aggravated the circular debt problem.

She underscored private sector explores options for boosting exports and availing of the opportunity offered by the establishment of Special Economic Zones.

There was an agreement that in few areas PBC will send more detailed proposals, meanwhile, the Secretaries will work towards taking up the suggested reforms with new Government.