PM wants end to ‘unnecessary’ withholding taxes

Published October 23, 2020
Prime Minister Imran Khan presides over a federal cabinet meeting. — Photo courtesy Prime Minister's Office Twitter/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan presides over a federal cabinet meeting. — Photo courtesy Prime Minister's Office Twitter/File

• Urges provinces to help common man get house loan
• Receives proposals to boost exports
• Says environmental studies should be done before islands’ uplift

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday directed the provinces to provide maximum facilitation to the common man in getting a house loan and stressed the need for revamping the country’s tax system to generate more revenue and providing relief to the industrial sector.

“The provinces should fully utilise the online portal so that the process of approvals can be made faster and transparent,” the prime minister said while presiding over a meeting of the National Coordination Committee on housing, construction and development at the PM House.

He stressed the need for providing all kinds of facilitation to poor people in getting bank loans while taking care of their self-respect.

State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Reza Baqir briefed the prime minister on provision of loans to the poor and middle class segments of society on easy installments.

Heads of the National Bank of Pakistan, Allied Bank Limited, Meezan Bank, Bank Al-Habib, Habib Bank and Bank of Punjab apprised the prime minister of the provision of loans under the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme and said special desks had been set up at their branches and the process of getting loans had been made easy both under the Islamic and conventional banking system.

The heads of banks assured the prime minister of their support and cooperation to the government in the promotion of the construction sector and facilitating the poor segments of the society in construction of their own houses.

They lauded the prime minister and the government’s economic team for taking measures for business fraternity, including the banks, keeping in view the situation of Covid-19 pandemic.

The meeting was told that technology was being used to make the process of providing loans in short time so that the documents of loan applicants could be verified early and speedily.

Punjab Chief Secretary Jawwad Rafiq told the meeting that an online portal had been introduced for the builders which had so far received 6,994 applications and 54 per cent of those had been approved.

The meeting was told that to avoid delay in approval process, the institutions concerned had also been linked with the online portal. With the provision of a time-line for the approval of an application, the applicant also remains updated about his/her case through the mobile application.

Revamping tax system

In a separate meeting, Prime Minister Khan said the revamping of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) was on the government’s top priority as broadening tax base had vital importance in stabilisation of the country’s economy.

Presiding over a briefing session on the FBR and tax system, he directed for introducing technology in the FBR and tax system so that transparency of the system could be ensured.

Special Assistant to the PM Dr Waqar Masood briefed the prime minister about reforms in the FBR and tax system.

Talking about various taxes imposed on the taxpayers, the prime minister said special focus should be given on the elimination of unnecessary withholding taxes.

He said the tax system, particularly the system of tax returns and the tax system for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), should be made easy. “Since the promotion of SMEs is the government’s foremost priority, special focus should be given on the facilitation of traders in the SMEs sector,” he added.

PM meets exporters

Reiterating that promotion of the industrial sector was his government’s priority, the PM said it would accelerate economic activity and lead to creation of jobs and wealth.

In a meeting with a delegation of renowned exporters, he assured them that the government would mull over the proposals they had put forward to him during the meeting for the exporters’ maximum ease and facilitation.

Federal ministers Hammad Azhar, Syed Ali Zaidi and Faisal Vawda, advisers Abdul Razak Dawood, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and Dr Ishrat Hussain, Special Assistants to the PM Zulfiqar Bukhari, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, the State Bank governor, the FBR chairman and senior officers attended the meeting.

The delegation comprised representatives of the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce, Pakistan Business Council, automobiles sector, tanners’ association, hosiery, fisheries, garments, pharmaceutical, steel, textiles and other industries.

The delegation members appreciated the government’s measures and efforts to boost exports and spoke high of the prime minister and his economic team. They said the government’s pro-business policies had revived the business fraternity’s confidence to stimulate the business activity.

The meeting was informed about a “remarkable increase” in the exports, export orders and domestic sale of cement, steel and automobiles.

The delegation members presented multiple proposals to enhance the country’s exports and exploit the potential.

Development work on islands

At another meeting, the prime minister directed the authorities concerned to conduct prior environmental studies and ensure conservation of natural resources before launching development work on the islands.

The meeting reviewed progress on Pakistan Islands and Ravi Riverfront Urban Development projects. “These two projects would bring in huge investments for Pakistan and create significant employment opportunities for the local people,” the prime minister hoped.

He said the revenues earned by islands projects would be spent on welfare projects in the respective provinces.

The meeting was attended by federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority Chairman retd Lt-Gen Anwar Ali Haider, Pakistan Islands Development Authority (PIDA) Chairman Imran Amin and senior officers.

Adviser to the Punjab Chief Minister Dr Salman Shah, the Punjab chief secretary, senior member of Punjab Board of Revenue, Ravi Urban Development Authority chairman and Bank of Punjab president participated via video link from Lahore.

Briefing on the Pakistan Islands Project, the PIDA chairman said due attention would be paid to environmental conservation and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

In that regard, he said, the authority was working with international environmental organisations, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and had also obtained “Silver Rating” of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design by the US Green Building Council.

Regarding the CSR initiatives, he said fishermen welfare fund would be established for welfare schemes of local fishermen.

He said the development of the islands would be carried out in an environment-friendly manner.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2020

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