Govt will not give in to strikes, PM tells businessmen

Published: July 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan declared on Wednesday he would not bow to pressure from certain businessmen for reversal of some tax measures, stressing that such tactics could not force the government to budge from the steps it had taken to streamline the economy.

Addressing an award distribution ceremony of the Gujranwala Chamber of Commerce, the prime minister said he considered stepping back for fears of strikes by the traders and the business community amount to disloyalty with the country.

The country did not have enough financial resources, while on the other hand, the people were demanding schools, universities and hospitals, Khan said, adding: “These could be possible when there are enough resources with the government.

Referred to tax collection measures in the budget, Khan impressed upon the traders, businessmen and industrialists to come forward and work with the government in cohesion for collection of taxes which he termed a pre-requisite for running the financial matters of the country.

About resistance showed by certain groups of traders over tax measures, the prime minister declared that he would not bow to pressure and such tactics and would not deter the government from the steps as it would amount to disloyalty with the country.

“If anyone believed that I will take a step back after the countrywide strikes … I will do no such thing,” the prime minister declared. Inviting the traders community to work as team with the government, he said: “With collective efforts, we will surpass the current difficult phase of economy.”

“The country was burdened with a whopping Rs30,000 billion debt in the last one decade by the previous rulers and half of the collected taxes went to the payment of these loans and interest,” the prime minister told the gathering.

He said that the country could no longer function under such conditions and the persisting mindset. “About 70 per cent out of total tax was being paid by 300 companies alone, whereas the ratio of tax collection from the service and agriculture sectors is dismal,” he said.

“It is indispensable to broaden the tax net,” he said. “We have to bring everyone into the tax net because only 1.5 million of the 220 million people pay taxes. If we all pay taxes little by little, we will have enough money to pull the country out of the quicksand of loans.”

PM Khan stressed that in the past, people did not trust the FBR (Federal Board of Revenue) due to their bitter experience. In 2013, the prime minister said, the then minister had admitted huge corruption in the FBR but it was now being reformed.

Khan said the important rules of the state of Madina included mercy, fairness and justice but at present, those who stole billions were getting air-conditioned rooms in the jails. “Everyone knew how those involved in small crimes were treated in jails,” he added.

Khan said he did not have any property or business abroad, his life was devoted to Pakistan, unlike those who took billions of rupees abroad. “They have other interests,” he stressed, referring to some of the opposition politicians.

He told the gathering that the government was creating convenience for the traders and industrialists. “We are in talks to stop smuggling from Afghanistan,” he noted, adding that the industry could not progress without putting a stop to smuggling.

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