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Musharraf urged to speed up reforms pace

June 08, 2002

ISLAMABAD, June 7: President Gen Pervez Musharraf has said that Pakistan does not have any aggressive designs against any country, but if attacked the country would defend its borders with all its resources and people’s power.

He was talking to members of the high-profile Economic Advisory Board (EAB) here on Friday. He briefed them on his recent contacts with the international leaders both at home and abroad regarding the ongoing border situation with India.

The President, an official announcement stated, urged the businessmen to remain prepared for seizing new opportunities as soon as the situation in Afghanistan stabilised.

EAB members told the President that despite a major improvement in the upper-level affairs of various government bodies, implementation process of policies remained slow at the lower level, which was causing various problems.

They also told him that the reminiscence of outdated laws enabled junior level officials to harass businessmen and create problems for their working.

The members said reforms agenda was undoubtedly sound, but its implementing pace should be accelerated.

They urged the president to get expedited the work of the deregulation body, as, according to them, fast deregulation process could help lower the cost of doing business in Pakistan.

Ministers for finance, commerce, communications, science & technology, agriculture, labour, privatization, and provincial finance ministers of Sindh and Blochistan, and other senior officials were also present on the occasion. The EAB comprised business leaders, leading professionals, social workers, economists and agriculturists.

The President told the participants that it was the policy of the government to provide maximum freedom of investment to the private sector and limit the role of the public sector in commercial enterprises.

Therefore the major public sector assets were sold to the private sector so that these could be better managed, he added.

“There must not be situation where government vacate the space that does not get occupied by the private sector”, he said.

In this regard, the President underlined the formation of the Inter-ministerial Committee on Deregulation which would identify and remove a host of irritants that increased the cost of doing business in Pakistan.

He also assured the members that appropriate measures were being taken to ensure continuity of policies after the general elections. The policies, he said, adopted by his government were not partisan but based on consensus.

Earlier, Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz presided over the 10th meeting of the EAB.

In his opening remarks, the minister noted that 2001-02 was most challenging from the outset. The global slowdown owing to oil price shock and bursting of dot-com bubble and persistent drought were posing major problems to the economic growth.

However, things became more challenging in the aftermath Sept 11 incident, and amassing of troops on Pakistan’s eastern border. “Yet despite all these challenges, and thanks largely to the relentless pursuit of reforms plan, the economy of Pakistan withstood all these shocks and performed satisfactorily”.

He said all major indicators of economic performance, such as growth, inflation, balance of payments, credit to private sector and fiscal deficit were either on targets or remained around them.

A detailed presentation was given to the board on the major trends in the economic variables during the year. Then CBR chief briefed the board on reforms of tax administration and on heads of the three sub-groups of the Inter-ministerial Committee on Deregulation.

He informed the board that tax administration reforms were focused on the autonomy of the CBR in setting its human uplift budgetary and administrative policies, simplification of tax processes, increased use of technology in assessment, audit and collection etc.

He also told them the CBR would introduce the concept of exclusive handling of a large number of taxpayers under one roof through the establishment of the Large Taxpayer Unit and a similar pilot for small and medium scale taxpayers.