Asad Umar addresses businessmen at the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peshawar, on Monday. — White Star
Asad Umar addresses businessmen at the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peshawar, on Monday. — White Star

PESHAWAR: A day after the meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde in Dubai, Finance Minister Asad Umar expressed the hope here on Monday that Pakistan was close to signing an agreement with IMF for a reasonable financial bailout package.

However, he said that national economy could be strengthened with the support of local business community and not by the outsiders. He said that peace in Afghanistan was linked with Pakistan. He said that improvement in trade with Afghanistan and Iran was a must. He added that efforts would be made for trade links with European countries via Turkey.

The finance minister was addressing businessmen at Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He said that IMF showed flexibility and intended to support Pakistan and sign an agreement with it.

He said that some basic points were discussed during the meeting with IMF team. “God willing this will be the last agreement with IMF,” said Mr Umar.

He said that IMF didn’t offer financial assistance on sympathetic grounds. He added that government would take the nation on board whenever the agreement was signed.

Minister hopeful about early agreement with IMF

The minister said that relations with China were increasing under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project but government also focused its attention on improvement of trade ties with different Western and Eastern states.

Mr Umar said that government would simplify procedure to widen tax net.

He said that a pilot project in that connection would be launched for traders in Islamabad that would be replicated in other parts of the country.

The minister stressed the need for bolstering trade relations with Iran and Afghanistan as well as Central Asian Republics.

He added that officials from Western countries often said that regional trade was important and Pakistan should improve trade relations with India.

However, he said that there could be no progress in that regard until elections were held in India. “Half of their election campaigns are based on anti-Pakistan rhetoric, so right now they are busy with it. Once the elections are over, we hope that their behaviour will be better,” he added.

He said that a strategic economic framework was being developed with Turkey and its first draft would be handed over to Istanbul in February.

Mr Umar also talked about discoveries natural gas in southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said that the province had rich water resources and hydel potential that needed to be utilised effectively.

Responding to the reservations of the businessmen, the minister said that payment of refunds would be ensured within a week. He said that the issue of new gas connections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be discussed with the authorities concerned.

He said that issues relating to cotton export would be discussed in the upcoming meeting of Economic Coordination Committee.

He said that he would take up the issue of mistreatment of businessmen by Intelligent and Inland Revenue team with FBR chairman. He said that government would give due respect to the business community.

The minister said that government had not stopped American company PayPal from entering the Pakistani market. “PayPal is not stopped on my desk, the State Bank or in any other government institution. We are chasing PayPal,” he added.

Regarding provincial tax exemption to the traders affected by Bus Rapid Transit Project, he said that he would request Provincial Minister for Finance Taimur Saleem Khan Jhagra to consider the demand of the business community.

Earlier, SCCI president Faiz Mohammad Faizi highlighted the issues of business community relating to tax refunds, gas and electricity, reforms in existing taxation and low trade with Afghanistan.

FPCCI former president Ghazanfar Bilour, Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Azra Jamshid, SCCI formers presidents Zahid Shinwari, Riaz Arshad, Malik Niaz and Haji Mohammad Afzal, Hayatabad Industrial Estate Peshawar president Zarak Khan Khattak, Manzoor Ali and Naeem Butt also spoke about the problems being faced by them due to power shortage and low supply of wheat to flour mills.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2019

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