Assemblies to rush through GST bills

Pakistan assures international donors that five bills will be presented in federal and provincial assemblies.

Salman Siddiqui/irshad Ansari November 04, 2010

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Pakistan has assured international donors that five bills will be presented in federal and provincial assemblies in their current sessions to seek approval of the Reformed General Sales Tax.

The assurance was held out at a high-level meeting of the international donors presided over by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and attended by representatives of leading donors and financial institutions, including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, DFID UK, Islamic Development Bank and others.

Sources said the meeting was given a detailed briefing about the programme of the forthcoming Pakistan Donors Forum (PDF) scheduled for November 14 in Islamabad.

Dr Shaikh told the donors that the meeting would not be confined to tackling issues related to rehabilitation and reconstruction of the flood-stricken areas but Pakistan would also present a blueprint for the rehabilitation of the nation’s economy. The forum would be informed about the strategy prepared by Pakistan to pull itself out of the present difficulties and identify sectors in which donors can cooperate with Pakistan.

According to the sources, State Bank of Pakistan Governor Shahid Hafeez Kardar announced in the presence of Sheikh, Minster of State for Finance Hina Rabbani Khar and Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Dr Nadeemul Haque that the bills of the  Federal Reformed General Sales Tax and Provincial Reformed General Sales Tax would be presented in the current session of the Parliament.

The meeting was told that preparations for the PDF meeting were in their final stages.

According to sources, the meeting was told that Pakistan had no objection as to whose pictures were printed on aid supplies but its only request was that funds be routed through the government.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has tied the release of the next tranche of funds worth $1.3 billion to the implementation of the RGST in Pakistan. The fund has decided to extend its delegation’s stay in the country by another two days. Negotiations were earlier expected to end by Wednesday at most. However, there were no rounds of negotiations on Tuesday and Wednesday. It is expected that negotiations will continue on Thursday in an attempt to break the deadlock that occurred during the first day of negotiations.

If the negotiations with the IMF prove successful, then the IMF delegation will present its recommendation to the executive body on December 17 for the release of the next tranche.

Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday called for flood tax to be imposed within four days in the country. The president put across his desire during a meeting with top officials of the Sindh cabinet, including Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, at the Bilawal House.

Different options to impose the flood tax were discussed in the backdrop of reservations expressed by the MQM.

Speaking with The Express Tribune, PPP Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab said the flood tax would be imposed on urban and rural areas. “The president directed that the tax should be imposed after proper vetting by the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco),” she said.

Wahab said Zardari was neither expected nor scheduled to meet MQM leaders during his current stay in the city. “All other issues, including the flood tax can now be looked into by the core committee, which includes (leader of the PML-F and opposition in Sindh Assembly) Jam Madad Ali and company.”

The president also met with a PML-F delegation that included two prominent leaders Pir Saddaruddin Shah Rashdi and Imtiaz Sheikh in the afternoon. From the government side, only Qaim Ali Shah and one other PPP leader were present in the meeting.

Sheikh said that a number of issues, including the flood tax were discussed in the meeting with the president. The PML-F in the past had made it known that they support the imposition of the ‘one-time’ tax in the country.

Sheikh said during the meeting which lasted over 40 minutes, a wide range of issues were discussed including the local body elections, flood rehabilitation plan and the law and order situation of Karachi.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2010.


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