New economic team fine-tuning amnesty plan, cabinet told

Updated April 24, 2019

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PRIME Minister Imran Khan chairs the meeting of the federal cabinet.—APP
PRIME Minister Imran Khan chairs the meeting of the federal cabinet.—APP

ISLAMABAD: The new economic team of the government, headed by newly appointed Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Hafeez Shaikh, is fine-tuning the much-awaited tax amnesty scheme which will be unveiled soon as a comprehensive document.

This was communicated to the federal cabinet at a meeting held at the PM Office on Tuesday.

During the meeting the cabinet took several decisions, including the one for evolving a mechanism to bring inflation down, especially before the arrival of Ramazan.

Speaking at a press briefing, Firdous Ashiq Awan insists fresh amnesty scheme is better than the one launched by the PML-N govt

The cabinet approved reduction in the prices of medicines after taking notice of recent 300 per cent increase in them. It also approved an internal inquiry so that people responsible for such a sharp increase in prices could be taken to task.

The cabinet also gave approval for renewal of contracts for the import of LNG (liquefied natural gas) and the meeting was informed that the government would try to import LNG at the lowest price in the region.

“The economic team of the government headed by Dr Hafeez Shaikh is giving a final shape to the tax amnesty scheme so that a comprehensive document could be presented in a few days,” newly appointed Special Assistant to the PM on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said in a post-cabinet meeting press conference.

She said the new scheme would be more effective than the previous such schemes in terms of revenue generation. “In the last amnesty scheme announced by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, people had got registered their off-shore assets, but they did not bring their money to the country. But in the new scheme we will make it mandatory that those who will get benefit from the scheme will have to transfer their money to the country from abroad,” the minister said.

Talking about rising inflation in the country, Ms Awan said the cabinet had expressed concern over the skyrocketing prices of essential items and decided to evolve a mechanism to bring prices down.

She, however, claimed inflation during the eight-month period of the present government was still lower than what it was during the terms of the PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) governments.

She said the prime minister had asked the authorities concerned to keep a watchful eye on the middlemen between growers and consumers as they were usually responsible for increasing prices of essential items.

PM Khan, she said, had also asked the cabinet members to take performance-oriented initiatives and make only those policies which were beneficial for people. “In this connection the prime minister has given some targets to his economic team,” she added.

She said corruption of previous rulers had plunged the country into a severe economic crisis and caused unbridled inflation. The prime minister has directed the provincial governments to make effective arrangements to control prices during Ramazan.

Ms Awan blamed the previous government for recent increase in gas and electricity tariff, saying the present government had inherited the circular debt from previous rulers. “We have to clear outstanding dues of power and gas companies. If we do not retire circular debt, people can face severe loadshedding of both power and gas,” she added.

Ms Awan said newly appointed Special Assistant to the PM on National Health Dr Zafarullah Mirza has been tasked to hold meetings with all stakeholders so that prices of medicines could be brought to their previous levels.

She said the money drug companies had earned through inflated prices would be recovered and given to Baitul Mall so that it could be spent on the treatment of poor patients.

She accused the PML-N government of signing the LNG import contracts on the highest price in the region. But, she added, the previous government had capped the prices for many years.

Talking about the PM Khan’s recent visit to Iran, she said the cabinet had termed the visit successful and hoped that the visit would help ending confusions between Iran and Pakistan.

The cabinet also approved a change in the procedure for treating mercy petitions of convicts on death row. In order to simplify the procedure, the cabinet has decided to form a committee comprising all stakeholders to decide such cases before sending them to the president for final nod.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2019