Shehbaz hints at tough economic measures

PM chairs SIFC meeting, points to Rs1.3tr tax potential

Our Correspondent March 21, 2024
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairing the meeting of the Apex Committee of Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) in Islamabad on Thursday, March 21, 2024. PHOTO: PID


Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday said the government was going to take tough economic decisions to steer the country out of crises, assuring to protect the downtrodden segments of society.

He said that the burden of the measures would primarily fall on the wealthy and the elite, with safeguards in place to protect the interests of the poor and vulnerable.

Addressing the meeting of the Apex Committee of Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), the prime minister said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had concluded the review for issuance of the last tranche of $1.1 billion that hopefully be received by next month. After this, he said Pakistan also wanted to start another programme with the IMF for a period of three years during which the government will take strict measures to bring deep-rooted structural reforms in the country.

With the reforms, he said “we will succeed in gradually breaking the begging bowl and come out of debt trap”. The prime minister sought support of all political parties and the provincial governments to successfully implement the agenda of macro-economic stability in the country.

“For this we will have to work together. With the support of all the provinces, we will together resolve all the challenges and difficulties faced by the country”, he added.

The prime minister said the presence of chief ministers of all the provincial governments, the army chief and other concerned officials from across the country conveyed a clear message to the nation that all had gathered for the cause of the country’s development, prosperity and integrity. He said the SIFC was formed in June 2023 to remove bottlenecks in the investment process and since then nine meetings of the Apex Committee had been held besides more than 200 relevant meetings. Consequent to the meetings, he said a number of important decisions had been taken and implemented under the umbrella of the Council.

Also read: IMF to release $1.1b after staff level deal

The prime minister pointed out that when the PDM government took over the charge of the government in 2022, Pakistan was at the brink of bankruptcy but all the coalition partners decided to save the country from plunging into default by putting their politics at stake. He said unfortunately a major chunk of the country’s resources drained down in shape of corruption.

“This year’s target of tax collection is Rs9 trillion but its potential was over Rs1.3 trillion.” Similarly, he said the cases of taxes worth of Rs2.7 trillion were pending either in tribunals or courts that should have been resolved as soon as possible. The annual power theft is around Rs400 billion in the country while the combined circular debt of electricity and gas was over Rs 5 trillion, the prime minister added.

As regards the achievements of the interim government under the SIFC, the prime minister informed that the caretaker set-up, due to its measures against power theft, saved Rs87 billion. Similarly, strict measures were also taken to curb smuggling besides introducing reforms in the land information system.

Besides, it also successfully concluded the privatization process of the Heavy Mechanical Complex (HMC). The prime minister highlighted that annually hundreds of billions of rupees were lost in the state-owned Enterprises as PIA alone owed debt wort of Rs 825 billion. Likewise, he said that the interim government also signed many important agreements with different countries to bring investment in the country including that with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) valuing $10 billion.

The chief of army staff reassured “the fullest support of the Pakistan Armed Forces to backstop the economic initiatives of the government and ensured the provision of safe, secure and conducive environment to nurture country’s true economic potential.”


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