Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said the time has come to change the mindset of the society with regards to taxation.
The prime minister, who was addressing a press conference at the Governor House in Karachi, said, "I appeal to everyone. It's time to change our mindset. The segments of the society who don't pay taxes [need to realise their importance]. Let's contribute together."
The remarks came after reports that groups of traders, business persons and transport operators had decided to go on strike against the tax measures taken in the federal budget for 2019-20.
"We are 210 million people; our small contributions will make a big difference. The tax target [Rs5.5 trillion] is nothing — we can collect at least Rs8 trillion."
"Everyone should pay taxes. [Currently,] only 1pc Pakistanis pay taxes and the country can't run like this."
Talking about the reasons behind the current economic conditions, he said the government had inherited a debt burden worth Rs30 trillion. He said that the country was in a debt trap where the government had to take more loans just to pay back interest on past loans.
To get out of the situation, he said, the country has to progress in three dimensions: "We will have to increase our income, decrease our expenses and eliminate corruption," he said adding that the government was facilitating the business and industrial sectors to increase the income of the state.
He added that the government was providing cheap electricity and gas to the industrial sector.
"We are also trying to increase exports, and exports have increased — though not in terms of dollars. The exports of garments have increased by 30 per cent," he said.
Trade agreements have already been signed with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and China, the premier said.
To reduce expenses, he said, the government has been running an austerity drive under which the cabinet members have volunteered for a cut in their salaries.
"I am going to the United States, [and during the stay] I will live in the embassy and take fewer staffers with me," he added as further 'proof' of his frugality.
Talking on the third point of his agenda, he said that some elements want him to let corrupt elements go without prosecution. However, he said he believed that corruption will increase if culprits are not caught.
"Corruption can't be reduced if culprits are not brought to justice," he said, adding that, "China has sent to jail around 425 minister-level individuals [because] they know corruption is an obstacle in the way of progress."
Talking about political issues, he said that the opposition was blackmailing the government but he had resolved that he will not bow before them.
"They want to hear me say three words [sic]: N. R. O. [National Reconciliation Ordinance]. But I will never say these words. I will consider myself to have betrayed the nation if I let them go."
'Work with me'
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Imran had sought to allay the concerns of the business community regarding the government's economic policies, saying it was his priority to resolve their issues.
The premier, after arriving in Karachi on a day-long visit, spoke to a delegation comprising representatives of the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Automotive Parts Association.
"The government wants to facilitate you," the official PTI Twitter account quoted the Prime Minister Imran as telling members of the delegation. He said the primary objective of his visit to the metropolis was to address the issues faced by the business community and that his entire economic team was present here to find quick solutions to their problems.
"Pakistan's economy can no longer be run according to the old methodology," he said.
The prime minister also said it was his foremost priority to alleviate poverty and accelerate economic activity, for which he sought the help of the business leaders.