• ML-1 rail project to be started, economic zones established under new phase
• Highest taxpayers to get blue passports, honorary title of ambassadors
• Premier, president vow to steer country out of prevailing crises

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday revealed that an agreement on the second phase of CPEC would soon be signed with China under which the ML-I rail project would be started and economic zones established across the country to boost economic activities.

The premier made the announcement while add­ressing the ‘Tax Excellence Awards’ ceremony, shor­t­­ly before a suicide attack in Shangla claimed six liv­es, including five Chinese workers.

He said Pakistan enjo­y­­ed excellent ties with Chi­na and the second phase of China-Pakistan Econo­mic Corridor would expedite economic development.

He said the government has no other option but to go for another IMF programme, adding that the programme didn’t stop “us from increasing our gro­w­­th and exports and expan­ding the tax net. We will ensure no more inflation due to the next IMF programme.” He ter­­med another IMF prog­r­a­m­­­me a req­u­irement for the cou­ntry’s economic stability.

The prime minister said the Special Invest­ment Facilitation Council (SIFC) was accelerating investment prospects by removing hurdles. He said the government was outsourcing airports, be­­sides expediting the privatisation of PIA, and reg­retted that state-owned enterprises were making billions of rupees of losses annually.

Terming the highest tax­payers heroes of the nation, PM Shehbaz anno­u­nced significant incentives for them, including issuance of blue passport and conferring of Pakis­tan Honour Cards and hono­rary title of ambassadors of the country upon them.

He said about Rs65 billion refunds had been issued to exporters upon his directive and he had also ordered making it a routine matter without any leniency. He stressed that the government and private sector had to work closely to overcome economic issues and challenges being faced by the country.

He said the federal government with the support of provincial governm­e­n­­ts would address the iss­ues faced by the private sector and end red tape by providing them enabling circumstances so that they could tread upon the development path.

He reiterated the na­­tion should get rid of cos­t­­ly oil-churning power units to provide competitive po­­wer supply to industries, adding that he had direc­ted the authorities concer­ned to do away with such junk.

About the Federal Boa­rd of Revenue, PM Shehbaz said the government was taking measures for its complete restructuring and a consultant would be appointed next month for that purpose. He said that about Rs27bn was under litigation whereas the revenue target was set at Rs9 trillion.

He underscored the need for appointment of competent tribunal heads to expeditiously dispose of the pending litigation, adding that he had also appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan for speedy disposal of such cases at the upper tiers.

He said the country’s tax collection stood at around 9pc of GDP which was the lowest in the region while a huge chunk of tax was siphoned off. If this massive leakage is not plugged, further impo­­sition of taxes would not yield results, he said, underlining the need for reducing tax slabs.

The premier appreciated the tax collectors and relevant departments who, he said, would also be given public recognition. He emphasised upon an exports-led growth, boosting of IT and agriculture development.

PM-president meeting

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday met President Asif Ali Zardari wherein they expressed their resolve to steer the country out of prevailing challenges. They also discussed the country’s overall political and economic situation, a President House press release said.

The meeting also featured deliberations on the measures to extend relief to the masses during Ramazan.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2024

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