KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday announced launching a new economic roadmap envisaging a strategy to overcome challenges and reset the country on the path to progress in the next six to nine months.
The prime minister was on a day-long visit to the provincial metropolis during which he met representatives of the business community, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and provincial party leadership.
He reiterated his resolve to steer the country clear of difficult times and maintained that the country was not deficient in anything, the only thing; it needed was an investors-friendly environment.
He said the government had fully focused on bridging the gap between imports and exports and assured that there would be no difficulty in running a business.
"PM Imran shared salient points of the government's economic recovery strategy and promised to unveil in the coming weeks a proper economic reform agenda, showing a clear roadmap for taking the country out of the current economic crisis," Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) said in a statement after its managing committee members held a meeting with the prime minister at Governor House.
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"Imran Khan also shared that the government is working on a clear path for the recovery and that the benefit of the revised economic strategy will be visible during the next six to nine months," it added.
OICCI - the foreign investors' representative body in Pakistan –however emphasised upon the government to bring consistency on economic policies to attract foreign investment in the domestic economy.
There is a great need for "predictability and consistency of policy and its implementation, as the (foreign) investors can take market risk but have difficulty in managing systematic risk," OICCI President Irfan Wahab emphasized at the meet.
OICCI members presented to the prime minister key challenges in attracting sizeable foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country and also offered recommendations towards creating a conducive and enabling environment for FDI.
"Wahab offered OICCI expertise in boosting FDI and on improving Ease of Doing Business and building up a positive image of the country overseas by sharing successful strategies which has worked internationally in boosting investment and exports," the statement said.
OICCI expects that a new industrial policy in the making will be developed during 2019 to give direction to new investment in the country.
Its members raised their concern to the prime minister on the long pending tax refunds, growing number of interprovincial coordination issues, lack of harmonisation of food standards among the provinces, and delays in the settlement of issues like pharma pricing issues post currency devaluation.
The OICCI president also presented to the prime minister a comprehensive OICCI booklet titled 'Recommendations on National Programme for Digital Transformation’, and stated that 'if the recommendations are acted upon it would lead the country into an era of digital and financial inclusion and good governance and help in the positive branding of Pakistan'.
The OICCI Digital recommendations include matters related to telemedicine, e-education, digital literacy, financial inclusion, e-agriculture, entrepreneurship, broadband for all, digital government, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and block chain
The prime minister promised full support to foreign investors in addressing their issues.
The government is all set to undo the regulations shot down the high-flying Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) by the previous PML-N government. The initiative is aimed at refilling a new life into the crippling bourse since long.
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Meanwhile, the prime minister met with a delegation comprising PSX management, board of directors, PSX Stockbrokers Association and big investors at the Governor House. He was flanked by Finance Minister Asad Umar and the Sindh governor.
Umar told the meeting participants that the government had completed all regulatory work required to do away with the wrongdoings with shares trading on the PSX.
The new regulations are aimed at rationalising taxes at shares trading that would come into effect soon and much before the next budget, PSX former chairman Arif Habib told The Express Tribune after attending the meeting.
"He (Umar) said that they would reduce 0.2% tax on share turnover to half -- 0.1% -- very soon and assured the community of reviewing whether they can abolish the tax later on," he said.
The tax is a big hurdle in the way of generating healthy trading activities and volumes at PSX.
The minister said that the new regulations would reduce the rate of Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on shares trading to the level of CGT on property. The measure would bring harmony between the two asset classes.
Moreover, the new CGT regime would allow investors to carry forward losses and adjust them against profit in three years. "This is a new regulation from the scratch," Habib said.
The market has been under selling pressure since former finance minister Ishaq Dar fixed the CGT rate at the then highest rate of 15% (20% for non-filers) and abolished all lower slabs available under the previous CGT regime with respect to shares holding period in the May 2017.
Dar did this at a time when PSX benchmark KSE 100 Index kept achieving record highs one after the other and hit an all-time high close to 53,000 points in May 2017.
The benchmark index closed at 38,562 points on Friday, downed by over 14,400 points compared to the 2017 peak level. The losses in the index are also included the ones incurred during PTI government due to poor economic policing since August 2018.
"The new regulations would also allow rationalisation of taxation of holding companies on inter corporate dividend," a seasoned stockbroker and big investor Aqeel Karim Dehdhi told.
"We were assured by Finance Minister Umar in front of PM Imran that they will not wait too long, not even for IMF, and the laws will be amended accordingly by December 2018," PSX Stockbrokers Association General Secretary Muhammad Adil Ghaffar said in a brief statement after the meeting.
PM Khan and FM Umar were also quoted as saying that they are trying their best to acquire the IMF bailout on less stringent conditions.
The participants urged the prime minister to stabilise interest rate and the rupee against the dollar as his government has overdone increase in interest rate and devalued rupee.