Time to shift focus from stabilization to growth: Khurram Dastgir


KARACHI: Federal Minister for Commerce Engr. Khurram Dastgir Khan has said that the government has succeeded in creating a stabilized platform and now the time has come to shift focus from stabilization to growth.

“Economy of Pakistan is on the right track today due to the far-reaching structural reforms, stabilization measures and initiatives of the past two years. We all must work together for the progress and prosperity of our country”, he added while exchanging views during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Thursday.

Chairman Businessmen Group and Former President KCCI, Siraj Kassam Teli, Vice Chairman BMG Zubair Motiwala and Anjum Nisar, President KCCI Iftikhar Ahmed Vohra, Senior Vice President KCCI Mohammad Ibrahim Kasumbi, Former Presidents KCCI AQ Khalil, Majyd Aziz & Abdullah Zaki, Chairman Site Association of Industry Jawed Bilwani and KCCI Managing Committee members were also present on the occasion.

Khurram Dastgir pointed out that some of the well-known foreign commentators were reporting positive forecasts about the macroeconomic stability of Pakistan and the challenge for the government was to deal with trust deficit of the business and industrial community and take confidence building measures.

Referring to improved law and order situation of the country, the Minister said that it was a very serious issue hindering economic growth and stability but the overall situation has effectively been controlled due to ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Karachi Operation. Even in Balochistan, the law and order situation was gradually improving which would surely go in favor of the economy, he added.

The second major issue hindering growth was the Energy Crisis and to deal with it, the government has initiated construction of projects including coal-fired power plants, nuclear power plants, solar power projects and a hydroelectric dam in Dasu while the construction of Pakistan’s first LNG Terminal was completed within a short span of 11 months which shows the commitment of the government to overcome energy crisis.

Commenting on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Khurram Dastgir said that this was not just limited to construction of road network only but a gas pipeline was also being laid from Gawadar to Nawabshah which will be connected with Iran to facilitate import of gas. China Pakistan Trade Corridor will not only benefit Pakistan and China but also create opportunities to have trade with Central Asian Republics.

Commenting on FTAs with various countries, the Minister said that Pakistan has signed Free trade Agreements with China, Sri-Lanka and Malaysia while negotiations for signing FTA with Thailand, Turkey and Korea were underway.

Referring to KCCI’s concerns expressed over registration of bogus associations, the minister informed that two DGTOs have already been dismissed on charge of corruption and the last DGTO was currently being investigated. “KCCI must immediately bring it to Commerce Ministry’s notice if they find any wrongdoings by the DGTO”, he advised.

He assured the business and industrial community of Karachi that he will personally advocate KCCI’s demand to get rid of FBR’s discretionary powers and also raise the issue pertaining to release of refund claims to the exporters.

Chairman Businessmen Group and Former President KCCI Siraj Kassam Teli, in his remarks, underscored the need to exhibit ‘the intent’ by democratic government towards resolving the issues and improving the overall trade and economic situation of the country.

“We are strong supporters of democracy but it has been observed that the economy performs better under dictatorship and remains depressed under democratically elected government due to lack of intent”, he added.

Criticizing the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for harassing the existing taxpayers only and failing to act against tax evaders, BMG Chairman said that FBR had identified 700,000 tax evaders long time ago who live luxurious lives, frequently travel abroad, use credit card and their children study abroad but they don’t pay taxes and FBR has failed to take any action or publicize details of such tax evaders.

“If Nawaz Sharif makes a formal announcement to completely lock down the FBR, it will substantially raise the revenue collection as individuals want to pay taxes but stay away from FBR when they see problems being faced by taxpayers in dealing with FBR authorities, complex procedures, corruption and harassment”, he added.

Vice Chairman BMG Zubair Motiwala feared that policies announced in the Finance Bill 2015-16 were likely to result in plunging the exports by at least 15 to 20 percent. He urged the government to implement ‘No Payment, No Refund’ system while textile sector must be declared zero-rated and tariffs should be brought down in line with the competitors so that the industry could move forward.

Vice Chairman BMG Anjum Nisar said that the Tariff Reforms Commission (TRC) formed by Ishaq Dar, which comprises of policymakers and representatives of business community, gave its valuable recommendations for effectively dealing with massive discretionary powers of the FBR but none of these recommendations were taken into consideration, which makes TRC meaningless.

Earlier, President KCCI Iftikhar Ahmed Vohra, while welcoming the Minister stated inconsistency in prevailing policies, high cost of doing business and security concerns need to be tackled sensibly as these discourage both local and foreign prospective investors to go for fresh investments and capacity enhancements.

He was of the view that role of the government is very important for promoting industrialization and self-sustenance in the form of provision of facilities, skill development and taxation related incentives.

“Policies are made, however, a major portion of the projects envisaged fail to see completion like setting up of Exim Bank is still lingering on for so many years”, he added.