‘Economic stimulus’: PM gives major tax relief to construction sector

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–Govt grants construction sector status of industry, won’t ask them about ‘source of income’ this year

–Imran says govt has to strike a balance between lockdown, feeding poor people

ISLAMABAD: In order to strike a balance between the “lockdown and regulation of economic activity”, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday announced a relief package for the construction sector that provides tax exemptions to the sector.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the National Command Centre, the PM said the government provided these exemptions to provide employment to the labourers so that they can be saved from “hunger and the coming difficult circumstances”.

In line with the relief package, the government will not ask construction entities about their source of income for this year as well as approval of a fixed tax regime for the sector.

The PM said: “This [move] will bring down the amount of tax to be paid. Also, if the investment is for the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme, we will exempt 90% of the tax on it.”

He announced an Rs30bn subsidy for the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme, saying that on the one hand, it will regulate economic activity and on the other, ensure houses for the poor were also built.

He said that withholding tax on materials and services had been abolished in the informal sector. “Tax will be collected only on steel and cement, mainly because these are the formal sectors,” he said.

PM Imran said that the government will not collect any capital gains tax from “any family that wants to sell its house”.

The prime minister said that the government ensuring that the construction sector was given the industry status and announced the formation of The Construction Industry Development Board. “An institution will be formed, for the first time, to promote the construction industry in Pakistan,” he said.

The premier said that the government will focus on other sectors to gauge whether they can be provided relief.

He spoke about the Coronavirus Relief Fund, saying that the government had started it solely for the benefit of the poor in Pakistan. “We will start giving out cheques in the next three to four days,” he said, adding that four million people have registered for the funds.

‘UNPRECEDENTED TIMES’:

He said the coronavirus pandemic was an unprecedented crisis and every nation was trying to contain this in its own way, citing the example of the US.

He said the case of Pakistan was different as in addition to dealing with the pandemic, the country also has to take care of its population that lives below the poverty line and the daily-wagers.

“A lockdown imposed only in Defence or Gulberg will not be successful. The success of a lockdown will depend on whether the poor will get food at their houses or not.”

He cited China’s example, saying that authorities had locked down Wuhan but that measure had been successful as the government had provided food to people at their doorsteps.

Speaking about the difference between the state and provinces in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, PM Imran said that he didn’t want to force provinces to do anything after the 18th Amendment had been passed.

Imran said that it wasn’t possible for anyone to predict whether the coronavirus will take a turn for the good or the worse. “We, as a nation, will fight [this disease] but no one can say what will happen in the next two to three weeks,” he said.

In response to a question about the need to unify the nation, the prime minister said that Pakistanis stood together whenever they were faced with a calamity. “I only have reservations against people who use calamities to hide their corruption. This will not happen,” he said.

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