'Ordinance passed to insulate business community from NAB,' says PM Imran

Updated December 27, 2019

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Prime Minister Imran Khan speaking in the awards distribution ceremony of the Pakistan Stock Exchange at the Governor House in Karachi on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Imran Khan speaking in the awards distribution ceremony of the Pakistan Stock Exchange at the Governor House in Karachi on Friday. — DawnNewsTV

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday announced the passage of a new ordinance which will "insulate the business community" from the scrutiny of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The premier's announcement came during an awards ceremony of the Pakistan Stock Exchange at the Governor House in Karachi to which he had been invited as the chief guest.

The prime minister said that the business community had always expressed their fear of the institution when they met with him, as it was "free to probe anyone".

"It is our contention that NAB should engage in scrutiny of public office holders only. For the business community, there is the FBR (Federal Board of Revenue) and other institutions as well as the courts."

He said it was important to have taken this step because "NAB had become a major hurdle in the way of the business community".

The premier assured the business leaders present that the government's economic team will always be available to assist them and that he will continue to meet with them as he does, at least every once in two months.

He said that the state will not only ensure that its citizens are provided dignity, it will ensure the implementation of "equal justice for all".

These are the two principles on which an ordinary country can become a great one, he said, adding that the state of Madina provides the perfect example to learn from as it lead on all fronts, whether scientific or business.

"The more we concentrate on why Pakistan was created, the clearer our roadmap ahead will be. Whether it is business or our foreign policy, the roadmap lies in the country's vision."

The prime minister said Pakistan was envisioned on the same founding principles on which the state of Madina was created. He said the business community plays a very important role in the realisation of this vision.

"Business creates wealth and a country cannot advance until there is wealth creation," said PM Imran.

"Wealth creation is only possible when the business community prospers," he said, adding that it was the government's task to facilitate them with "ease of doing business".

"It was a great feat for us that despite having inherited a bad economy, with institutional collapses all around, we were able to jump 28 points up on the ease of doing business index of the World Bank," said the premier.

The premier regretted that profit-making was misconceptualised in the country and confused with profiteering over the past few decades. "We want people to make money [...] we will see that there is ease in doing business."

He said the path to progress had begun after a difficult period in the first year of the government's rule. "But the rupee has stabilised now and investers have confidence. 2020 will be the year of growth now.

"We will especially focus on small and medium enterprises. We continue to devise ways on how to serve them better," said PM Imran.

The premier also spoke of how tourism can facilitate job creation, especially with Pakistan being recently ranked as the number one holiday destination by Condé Nast. He said this will facilitate job creation for the youth and will bring in much-needed foreign exchange.

"This is potentially a very big avenue which we have yet to fully explore."

'Pakistan given a thumbs up'

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, while addressing the ceremony, said that Pakistan's economy is on an upward trajectory and that its performance was being acknowledged by all the major foreign financial institutions.

"Members of the Asian Development Bank reported to their board that Pakistan's performance warrants the provision of special instruments," he said.

Sheikh said that after a period of four years, portfolio investers had expressed their confidence in the country and invested in excess of $1bn. He said that the foreign direct investment had witnessed a 87 per cent increase in the first five months of the current financial year as compared to the past year.

"All the investers, evaluators, analysts, agencies and organisations whose task it is to monitor the economies of countries, have all given Pakistan a thumbs up.

"They are all saying Pakistan has stabilised. Pakistan is on its way to long term growth. And these are all good signs."

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh addressing the ceremony in Karachi on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh addressing the ceremony in Karachi on Friday. — DawnNewsTV

He said that Pakistan was also undergoing institutional development. "People come and go but our growth rate is never sustained because we do not focus on the development of our institutions."

He said that it is the prime minister's vision to have competent people run the government and given the responsibility to improve the state of institutions.

"For the first time, we gave the State Bank autonomy and let them draft the monetary policy.

"We wish to empower all other institutions as well to make their own decisions."

He said that it was also decided that the private sector will be the engine of growth. "You must have seen it is not the case that PTI workers are being given coveted government jobs. No. We aim to provide you all these incentives so that you all can hold all the good quality jobs."

The finance advisor said that the government is also inviting options from the business community for better domestic production.

He also spoke of the government working hard to address all their concerns such as refunds, recalling that after a meeting with business leaders, Rs30bn in promissory notes had been converted to cash within 24 hours.

"Our government is different because we are here for you always."

Speaking of challenges that persist, the finance advisor said that the government is working to reduce inflation. "We did not increase petroleum prices in the last five government because there was no rise in prices globally," he explained, adding that an increase in fuel prices is the natural consequence of a global rise in prices.

He said domestic production is also a worry for the government as well as the role of women in the economy for which the government will continue to make efforts for improvement.

Premier's day-long visit to Karachi

The premier, who is on a day-long visit to Karachi, held meetings with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders belonging to the party's Sindh chapter, a press release by the government's Press Information Department (PID) said.

The premier instructed them to dedicate all their energies towards resolving the issues faced by residents of their constituencies. He reminded the lawmakers that the PTI's long struggle had always been aimed at providing relief to the downtrodden and safeguarding their interests.

PM Imran urged that special emphasis be given to the people of interior Sindh who are "faced with extreme poverty and helplessness".

According to the press release, the prime minister also met with a delegation of the business community and assured them that the government's door "will always remain open for them". "The input from the business and trader communities is of extreme importance to us."

The prime minister told the delegation that the government desires to build a partnership with the private sector in the country's development projects.

Prime Minister Imran Khan meeting prominent businessmen in Karachi on Friday. — PID
Prime Minister Imran Khan meeting prominent businessmen in Karachi on Friday. — PID

The prime minister was also briefed on the progress of the projects being funded by the federal government in the city as well as the province by Sindh Infrastructure Development Company CEO Saleh Farooqi.

The premier was apprised of the fact that the funds allocated for the Sindh Package by the federal government for FY2019-2020 had been released.

He was also told that the first phase of the Green Line Project which involved construction work has been completed and the operational phase was now underway with plans submitted to Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) for approval.

Furthermore, the premier was informed that the filtration plants and hospital projects for Thar will soon be completed.

The premier instructed that the timely completion of all projects be ensured.

PM Imran had announced a "comprehensive package" for Karachi in August. "The federal government is drafting a comprehensive package to end the decades of neglect and suffering of the people of this great metropolis," he had tweeted.

The prime minister's announcement had come in the backdrop of at least 11 people, including a child, losing their lives in rain-related incidents in Karachi.

Subsequently, in September, he constituted a high-level committee to work out plans to address issues being faced by the residents of Karachi.

The premier had last visited the city in October and met Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, as well as MNAs and MPAs from PTI, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA).

Additionally, he had met with a delegation from a transportation company to discuss transport issues in the metropolis.