Good start, but decisiveness needed to build consensus on reforms: PBC

KARACHI: The government has made a good start in its early 100 days of rule, but it needs to build momentum and communicate more effectively to take public into confidence and seek national consensus on reforms, a business policy advocacy group said on Monday.

“The opposition (parties) needs to rise above party politics and join hands with the government in the national objective of regaining financial sovereignty and economic discipline,” the Pakistan Business Council (PBC) said.

The PBC also believes there are sufficient grounds for business to have confidence in the potential of the economy. Exports have begun to respond to a more competitive exchange rate and imports will decline with lower crude oil cost.

“Business should play a visible role to gear up investment, create the capacity and capability to export by broad-basing its offerings, diversify markets and add sophistication to products,” the council said in a report on assessment of the first 100 days of the government. “It also needs to help reduce reliance on imports and generate more livelihoods.”

PBC has consistently advocated the need to grow, create, and make more in Pakistan. “If we do this responsibly, inclusively and sustainably, we will serve Pakistan and Pakistanis better. That should be hallmark of the Naya Pakistan and there is substantial work to do to get there.”

The business policy advocacy group hopes that a possible bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should be the last one and for that to happen reform program needs to be implemented “with rigour and discipline (and without waivers) to address the fundamental flaws undermining industry”.

“At the appropriate time, the government should also share a ‘Plan B’, covering the possibility of failure of talks with the IMF,” it said. PBC opposed the issuance of notices to late filers of income tax returns, saying the FBR’s time and efforts should better be spent on chasing non-filers.

“If this continues unchecked, the government’s credibility to create an equitable and broad-based taxation system would be impacted negatively,” it said. “Certainly, business as usual on collecting taxes from the few through harassment cannot be what Naya Pakistan was promised to be.”

The council also raised an issue of provinces aligning their taxation of real estate to accord with the federal government’s priority to stem leakage of wealth, “denying the formal sector fuel to grow”.

“One would have hoped… progress in at least Punjab and Kyhber Pakhtunkhwa where PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf) forms the government,” it said. “Alternatively, this matter should be taken up at the Council of Common Interests.”

The council said manufacturing industry that represents 13.5 percent of GDP should not carry 58 percent of the taxation burden. The PBC said future trade agreements should closely be examined through the lens of jobs, value-added exports and import substitution.

The government was urged to talk to Canada, Japan, Australia and the Scandinavian countries to get parity for exports with Bangladesh instead of pursuing free trade agreements with Thailand and Turkey.

Published in The News International