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New finance team enters with heavy agenda

December 27, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Rana Mohammad Afzal takes oath as state minister for finance on Tuesday. Miftah Ismail has been appointed as adviser on finance, revenue and economic affairs with a status of federal minister.
ISLAMABAD: Rana Mohammad Afzal takes oath as state minister for finance on Tuesday. Miftah Ismail has been appointed as adviser on finance, revenue and economic affairs with a status of federal minister.

ISLAMABAD: After a sustained delay, the government on Tuesday finally completed its finance team by notifying Miftah Ismail as Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs with a status of federal minister.

Earlier in the day, Rana Mohammad Afzal took oath as State Minister for Revenue, Finance and Economic Affairs.

The post fell vacant with the departure of Ishaq Dar in November. Mr Ismail is widely known to be a close confidante of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

He hails from the Karachi business community with interests in the confectionery industry. He has worked as head of the Punjab Board of Investment and Trade, the Chairman of Federal Board of Investment, and briefly as Chairman of the Privitisation Commission as well as director of PIA and chairman of Sui Southern Gas Company. He has been serving as finance adviser, an official post, to the prime minister since Dar’s departure.

Talking to Dawn after his appointment, Mr Ismail said that the prime minister has assigned him a three-point agenda—broaden the tax base, quicken refund payments to exporters and bring undocumented money into the mainstream.

Under the priority one agenda, he said the prime minister wants widening of tax base and lowering of tax rates especially for individuals. “We are seriously working on it”, he said.

In the tax year 2017, around 1 million filed their returns out of around 4 million people who are on the tax roll—having national tax numbers. On many occasions the prime minister has talked about the narrow tax base of the country.

The second big agenda assigned to the new economic team was to come up with a clear policy to complete the unfinished agenda of returning money to exporters. FBR has been withholding exporters refunds and rebates to inflate the revenue figures.

Mr Ismail said prime minister has instructed him to clear outstanding dues of the exporters.

The third big priority, he said, is to come up with a plan to bring undocumented wealth back to Pakistan’s documented economy.

When asked whether this will involve another amnesty scheme, he only said “let us see.” The adviser said that prime minister wants this agenda to be implemented within the remaining five months period of the ruling government.

Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2017