New amnesty scheme on the anvil: Asad Umar

Published April 2, 2019
Finance Minister Asad Umar speaks at the launch ceremony of Dr Hafiz Pasha's book in Islamabad on April 2. — DawnNewsTV
Finance Minister Asad Umar speaks at the launch ceremony of Dr Hafiz Pasha's book in Islamabad on April 2. — DawnNewsTV

Finance Minister Asad Umar on Tuesday said that the government is considering launching a new tax amnesty scheme, which he said would allow assets within Pakistan as well as abroad to be declared.

"It's possible that we announce the new amnesty scheme before the new budget," said the finance minister in a brief chat with media personnel in Islamabad. "The scheme has not been finalised yet. We are still seeking advice on the matter."

Umar said that the amnesty scheme "is a demand of the business community", as he acknowledged that "people can be given an opportunity to declare their assets".

Earlier in the day, the finance minister said that the government will seek to develop economic consensus beyond partisan politics for the progress and prosperity of the country.

His remarks came during a speech delivered at a pre-budget consultation and book launch ceremony.

Umar said that the standing committees on finance in the parliament and Senate are the best forums where a medium-term framework can be developed for the introduction of economic reforms.

The finance minister said that during the PML-N's tenure, the former finance minister had never made use of the wealth of knowledge and expertise the members of the standing committees could have provided.

"There are experienced people sitting there who understand the economy and most importantly, representatives from all the political parties are sitting there," said Umar.

The finance minister said that a draft of reforms had been prepared, which will be shared with the standing committee of finance in the National Assembly on Thursday.

While Umar admitted that political confrontation "negatively impacts" the economy, he stressed that efforts to combat crime must not be suspended simply for the sake of developing economic consensus.

"When the political space is heated, economic decision making is impacted, and creating an economic consensus becomes difficult. Therefore, in the usual circumstances political confrontation is an undesirable thing for the economy," he said.

"However, is tracking the proceeds of crime and punishing criminals political confrontation or upholding of the rule of law?" he asked.

'Jahangir Tareen not barred from breathing'

Umar also shared his views on the political future of fellow PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, who stands disqualified from holding a public office but as Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi recently objected, still attends cabinet meetings.

"The Supreme Court has not barred Jahangir Tareen from breathing," Umar said as he took a contrasting stance to that of Qureshi's. "The prime minister can call whomsoever he wishes to cabinet meetings. Jahangir Tareen only sits in the meetings with the prime minister's permission."

Petrol prices

The finance minister distanced his ministry from the recent hike in the prices of petroleum products, saying that price determination is the prerogative of Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra).

"A tax of Rs23.30 is being charged on petrol. The base price of petrol is Rs75.57 and the people are being charged Rs98.89. The prices are determined by Ogra," he said.

Umar recalled that the prime minister had rejected the finance ministry's recommendations regarding petrol prices many times, adding that Ogra should reserve the right to determine prices after approval from the parliament.

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