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KARACHI: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Economic Affairs Dr Miftah Ismail has said the government will announce a tax amnesty scheme “very soon” to bring investment and money from abroad.

The government’s top priority is to promote the national economy and increase the growth rate, he said.

Under the proposed scheme, the government will offer tax relief to people who bring back foreign exchange and declare their properties in other countries.

Addressing members of the Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD) on Saturday, he urged them to undertake business activities in economic zones being built under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Local builders and developers will receive as many incentives as Chinese entrepreneurs, he said. The government will provide all possible facilities to the construction sector for the creation of jobs, he added.

Fixed tax regime for builders

According to a press release by ABAD, Dr Ismail hinted at the revival of the fixed tax regime (FTR) for the construction sector. Terming the FTR a good move, he invited ABAD members to Islamabad for further discussion. The government introduced the FTR in the 2016-17 budget, but discontinued it in 2017-18.

He said increasing revenue is not the sole aim of the government. It wants to promote the national economy and create more jobs, he said.

The government wants to widen the tax base and reduce tax rates, he stated. The government wanted to increase the growth rate up to nine per cent. But for poverty alleviation, the growth rate should be enhanced up to 10pc against the current target of 6pc, he noted. He said he is hopeful that the revenue target of Rs4 trillion will be achieved in the current fiscal year.

He also announced the establishment of a board for the construction of low-cost housing units across the country and appointed ABAD Patron-in-Chief Mohsin Sheikhani as its member.

ABAD Chairman Arif Yousuf Jeewa said local industries, such as the steel sector, are increasing the prices of their products following the imposition of regulatory duties.

He said the CPEC will bring prosperity to the country, but local builders and developers should also be given their due share in the corridor-related projects. He lamented the fact that the tax relief given to Chinese investors for the import of machinery will affect local investors.

He said the Federal Board of Revenue is harassing builders and developers and no positive change is being brought to the taxation system. Any recommendation from our side is thrown into the dustbin, he alleged.

He said low-cost housing schemes announced by ABAD will have a far-reaching impact on the national economy.

Mr Sheikhani said Pakistan is facing a shortage of 12 million housing units. More than 70 allied industries prosper as the construction sector grows, he added.

He said builders and developers will not ask the government to provide them with land for low-cost housing schemes.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2018