Lahore: Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said on Tuesday that country’s progress and prosperity hinges on well-being of the business community and the government is making all-out efforts to ensure enabling environment for the trade and industry.
Addressing the business tycoons at Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry here, the Prime Minister said, “If business prospers, the country will automatically be on the track to economic growth.”Acting Punjab Governor, Rana Muhammad Iqbal, Federal Finance Minister, Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs, Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo, Federal Commerce Secretary Munir Qureshi, FBR Chairman, Ali Arshad Hakeem,LCCI President, Farooq Iftikhar and other-office bearers as well as a large number of industrialists, businessmen and traders were also present.
The Prime Minister said the PPP-led government was ready to implement all doable proposals on any sort of issue/project by the business community without any let and hindrance,because it believed in private sector’s growth.
The government and the private sector were on the same page to rid the country of economic ills being faced today, he added.The Prime Minister said the government was working on a number of alternate energy resources including coal and solar power. He said the solar energy projects were not that inexpensive as being portrayed, however, with the passage of time the solar panels would be in easy access of the consumers.
Raja Pervaiz said that on the advice of Dr Samar Mubarik Mund, the government gave instant response to Thar Coal gasification, as a number of such projects was well underway.He, however, made it clear these projects entails a lot of many things including power generation stations and transmission lines for their connectivity with the national grid that would definitely take time to trickle its effects down to the common man.
The Prime Minister said the government was also focusing on the hydel component of the electricity and had expedited work on all ongoing hydel projects as well as those on the drawing board.If all the federating units develop a consensus on Kala Bagh Dam today, the government would initiate construction of the dam immediately, he maintained.
The Prime Minister said that it was not only Pakistan but
many other countries including India, Middle East, Bangladesh,
Bhutan and other SAARC countries were also facing the demand
and supply issue of the electricity.He also announced to take LCCI as member in the Energy Crisis Committee under his (Prime Minister) chairmanship.He said the government has also reset its priorities by laying greater focus on improving law and order situation, fulfill the gas and electricity requirements of the business and industry, equitable electricity load-shedding and promotion of private sector.
“We believe in our people, particularly the businessmen
and industrialists that together we will steer the country out
of prevailing challenges,” he added.With regard to trade with India, the Prime Minister said that government was committed to facilitate the business community, adding, the government was watching the entire development on the subject and the Pak business community’s
interests would not be compromised.
Raja Pervez said the government, and industry and business community were not opponents but basically, “We are one, and our destination is only and only the development of Pakistan and well-being of her people. We have to promote this aspect that all institutions- Supreme Court, Armed Forces,Parliament, media and business community- are ours.”
The Prime Minister said that despite all odds, the PPP-led coalition government manage effectively to promote the democracy as well as implement 75 percent of its (PPP) manifesto by achieving fiscal target; bringing down the inflation rate to a single digit, while the GDP was also all around in agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
Earlier, highlighting the economic steps, the Federal Finance Minister Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said that despite being a political government, it had stabilized electricity tariff; deregulated the petroleum prices and rationalized the gas prices, besides, reducing the government expenditures up to 7 percent annually.
The federal government, he added, had strengthened the
provinces by giving them fiscal and resources autonomy, and
the provinces received Rs 5000 billion, while, an additional
amount of Rs 1000 billion was also given to provinces under
the changed National Finance Commission.
Dr. Hafeez said the federal taxes showed up to Rs 350
billion more revenue collection during last fiscal year,
adding, the national tax deficit could be eliminated with the
cooperation of provincial governments.
Under the new tax reforms, he said, the federal
government had abolished Regulatory Duty on 392 out of the
total 397 items, while, Federal Excise Duty (FED) was either
abolished or brought down to half on various items and the FED
would completely be abolished within next two years.
Similarly, he said, slabs in Custom Duty were also
reduced, and 17 tax slabs had been reduced to mere seven
slabs, while, the minimum amount for Income Tax had also been
raised from Rs 100,000 to Rs 400,000.
The Minister said that government had decreased the rate/ratio on all sorts of taxes that would ultimately prove to be beneficial for all Pakistanis.The PPP government, he said, had also the pride of
completing 650 developmental projects worth Rs 3000 billion
including energy projects.
In his welcom address, LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar termed the energy crisis as a biggest problem of Pakistan, and stressed the need for making a substantial investment in power sector infrastructural development to meet the growing energy needs.He urged the government to allocate at least Rs 200 billion per year or 10 percent of the total budget for energy projects such as Dasu Power Project, Diamer Bhasha Dam, Munda Dam, Kohala Hydropower Project and Kurram Tungi Dam, to produce cheaper electricity. Kalabagh Dam is the most viable project to address the energy issue, he added.
He said the problem of circular debt must also be tackled on sustainable basis. By 2025, he said, Pakistan’s per capita water storage capacity was expected to drop to 700 from the current 1,038 cubic meters, therefore, it was essential to act now to avert such a situation.He said Pakistan has immense potential to produce cheaper electricity through coal and proposed that sizeable funds be allocated for development of Thar Coal project.
Farooq Iftikhar applauded the government’s decision to import
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), and it was expected to allow powerhouses
in Pakistan to generate 2,500 MW of electricity initially.He also appreciated plans to cooperate with India in this matter.A handsome amount be allocated for construction of an LNG terminal at the port city of Karachi, he proposed.
Pakistani entrepreneurs were ready to compete with Indian products
and look forward to gaining access to a very large Indian market, for which, the government would have to ensure a level playing field to
them.He suggested that Pak-China Free Trade agreement, which was now
moving into its second phase, be revisited in consultation with the business community. Duties on Pakistan’s exports were higher than
desired under the current agreement, so the rates should be structured in line with the China-ASEAN Trade agreement.
LCCI SVP Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, VP Mian Abuzar Shad, former Presidents Ejaz Butt, Sheikh Saleem Ali, Mian Mohammad Ashraf, Tariq Hameed,
Iftikhar Ali Malik, Mian Anjum Nisar, Mian Misbahur Rehman and Irfan
Qaiser Sheikh were also present.