ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday granted tax exemptions to the services relating to construction industry, as the ministers approved amendments to the OGRA Ordinance, restructuring and strengthening of the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) and export of chloroquine to the friendly countries.
The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, discussed various agenda items, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporters at press conference after the meeting. Addressing the ministers, Imran stressed the need for fighting “corruption virus” along with the coronavirus.
According to the cabinet decisions, Firdous said, exemption had been granted in taxes on services that came under the Islamabad Capital Territory (Tax on Services) Ordinance, 2001. The exemption also covered the low-cost housing units under the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme.
“The current 5% tax on construction services, taxes on services provided by property dealers and real estate agents and taxes on services provided by property developers have been reduced to zero,” she told reporters.
Important recommendations regarding the restructuring and reforms in the CCP were put before the cabinet, which were approved, Firdous, the de facto information minister, said. “Prime Minister Imran Khan is determined to make the CCP a strong institution to safeguard public interest,” she added.
“The prime minister reiterated his resolve that he would not let the people become hostage to anyone. Those who had any personal or institutional affiliations will no longer remain in the CCP,” she said, adding that the prime minister had approved the removal of its chairman, however he had obtained stay order from the court.
The cabinet was informed that so far 27 petitions had been filed against CCP and liabilities of Rs27 billion had not yet been paid by various stakeholders. She said some decisions had been pending for 11 years. The prime minister directed for filling the vacant posts in appellate tribunal within one week.
About the policy of official residences of the government officials, Firdous said the cabinet decided to formulate a single policy regarding the government housing. From now, she added, the government employees would be able to stay in their allotted houses for six months after retirement.
She said that the cabinet gave permission to export 5 million chloroquine tablets to the UK, 1 million each to Saudi Arabia and the United States, 700,000 to Kazakhstan, 500,000 each to Turkey and Italy, and 300,000 to Qatar to help those countries in their time of need.
She said that Pakistan had around 40 million tablets in stock – way more than its domestic needs – and also possessed raw material to make the drug in greater numbers. The prime minister informed the cabinet that leaders of some countries expressed the desire to import this tablet from Pakistan.
Firdous said that the cabinet also approved reforms in the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992. Sharing the prime minister’s direction in this regard, she added that the majority of members should come from the minority communities instead of Muslim.
“The commission will now comprise two Muslims, two Hindus, three Christians, one Sikh, one Parsi and one member from the Kalash community, while the chairman of the commission will also be from among the minorities,” she added.
The cabinet endorsed the decisions taken by the Cabinet Committee of Energy regarding the OGRA Ordinance. Firdous said the cabinet also approved the appointment of Finance Adviser Dr Hafeez Shaikh to head the cabinet committee on finance and revenue.
Previously the committee had been working under the prime minister. Firdous said now the adviser would see all the matters relating to state-owned enterprises before getting final approval from the prime minister.
The cabinet also proposed the privatisation of the IESCO and PESCO. Firdous said that agreements about the Independent Power Plants (IPPs) were singed by the previous governments. No such agreement had been signed during the PTI government, she added.
While criticising the opposition’s role during the coronavirus pandemic, Firdous said that the opposition leaders had suddenly started appearing on the media and become the representatives of Shehbaz Sharif, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President.
Accusing them of making a political statement after the National Accountability Bureau’s notice to Shehbaz, she said that the opposition leaders should talk to the people about “virus pains” rather than “NAB pains” and help in the government’s efforts to deal with the pandemic.
The special assistant to the prime minister rejected the criticism of the ‘Corona Tiger Force’ as unjustified. “The youth are voluntarily offering their services for the Tiger Force. They are not paid for it but their services are being utilised improve the situation.”