Credit goes to PM for low taxes with exemptions to multiple sectors: Tarar

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ISLAMABAD, Minister for Information, Broadcasting, Culture and National Heritage Attaullah Tarar on Monday said that credit for minimum taxes and tax exemptions to multiple sectors in the budget went to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif who aced tough negotiations with the IMF.

“The prime minister played a proactive role in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to ensure minimum duties and tax exemption for different sectors,” he said while addressing a press conference.

“Let me be very clear that there is no tax on solar panels, text books, pensioners’ income, fertilizers, charitable hospitals and health equipment, and it is all due to the prime minister who wants the nation to be prosper and self-empowered,” he said.

The minister said there were multiple sectors on which the tax rates were reduced to 35 % from 45%.

PM Shehbaz also ensured that the petroleum development levy to be maintained at Rs 60 in the current fiscal year. However, only Rs 10 margin had to be given as a contingency measure, he noted.

The minister said the provision of Rs 38 per unit electricity to exporters was a major relief for industry, clarifying that the exports dividends were only taxed in the budget.

No tax had been imposed on low wagers while only Rs 1,200 would be deducted from the salaries of those who earned Rs 100,000, he said, adding the high salaried persons were taxed in the budget.

He termed the 15 per cent increase in minimum wage from Rs 32,000 to Rs 37,000 as a major step of the government to provide a relief to the salaried class urging the private sector to ensure its implementation in letter and spirit.

The minister said he had requested the Pakistan Broadcasters Association and All Pakistan Newspapers Society to ensure minimum wage and clear all the outstanding dues of journalists and media workers.

Responding to the critics, Tarar said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had introduced home-grown reforms to ensure growth of the national economy which was in free fall by the end of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

The economic reforms reflected his out of the box approach that had a sole purpose to boost the revenues and curtail the expenditures for the current fiscal year, he added.

The minister said the dissolution of the Public Works Department and privatization of state-owned enterprises were practical demonstration of his vision for bringing down the expenditures, and to increase the revenues. Moreover, the government was carrying forward its agenda of digitizing the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

The prime minister, he said, had formed a downsizing and rightsizing committee which would be chaired by Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb to implement the privatization agenda of the government for the SOEs.

The minister categorically stated that the cabinet members were not withdrawing any salary, perks and privileges that showed their commitment to reducing the expenditures.

Tarar said he had requested for merging the Culture Division into the Information Ministry as it was part of the latter in the past.

He lauded Interior Minister Moshin Naqvi for taking a decision to bring the Narcotics Control Department under the Interior Ministry which had set a good example for curtailing the state expenditures.

The minister said the privatization process for the Pakistan International Airlines was moving forward at the rapid pace as multiple visits for potential pre-qualified bidders had been arranged to show them its assets.

The privatization of the PIA would be carried out in accordance with the law and transparency would be ensured during the process, he added.

To achieve the Rs 13 trillion revenue target set by the FBR for the current fiscal year, he said the government had initiated the process of its digitization to remove loopholes and leakages in the system.

“Without spending the state money, the prime minister took an out of the box solution for digitizing the FBR,” he said. PM Shehbaz garnered the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in engaging McKinsey & Co. for the ongoing digitization of the FBR, which was appreciable, he added.

Highlighting the government’s economic achievements, he said IT exports had increased significantly, inflation brought down to 11 per cent from 38 per cent and the stock markets registered the record highest points that showed the budget was business-friendly and boosted the confidence of business community.

He hoped that it would be the last IMF programme for Pakistan as the government had a clear vision to boost economy.

“Tax is a national duty and those who are supposed to pay tax must become filers,” he said, adding there were no holy cows or elite capture in the country.

Furthermore, digitization of the FBR would usher in a robust mechanism to broaden the tax net, he added.

The minister said he expected of his former colleagues Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Miftah Ismail to appreciate the decisions and initiatives taken by the government to reduce expenditures and inflation.

He asked the two whether they had reservation on the FBR’s digitization or reduction in inflation, the PIA’s privatization, increase in minimum wage or tax exemptions given on solar panels, text books, pensioners income, fertilizers, charitable hospitals and health equipment.

He said the prime minister had a vision to support middle class and tax the elites, and such measures should be appreciated and welcomed by the former colleagues who resorted to criticism unnecessarily.

Tarar rebutted the “false claims” of his former party colleagues about doling out Rs 500 billion funds to the Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) in the federal budget 2024-25.

“Neither we have allocated Rs 500 billion nor have any intention in this regard. This is a wrong notion and sheer exaggeration,” he added.

The minister clarified that an amount of Rs 1,500 billion was earmarked for the development schemes in the budget.

“It is the right of every person to form a political party but nobody is allowed to spread misinformation and disinformation,” he remarked.

To a query about inflated electricity bills, he said the energy minister would address a news conference and brief the masses on the issue in detail.

The proposal for privatization of the electricity distribution companies was under consideration and new boards would be formed to make them profitable organizations, he said in response to another query.

He said the government had reduced petroleum prices upto Rs 35, but the international market had its own impact.

To another query, he said tax exemption was only given to the martyrs’ families and retired civil officers who served the country for their whole life.

The general election would only be held in 2029 upon completion of the constitutional tenure of the incumbent government, he said, adding the Parliament was an appropriate forum to do politics in the current circumstances.

“Solution to all the problems in politics lies in negotiations and dialogue,” the minister remarked.

To another query, he said the government’s austerity campaign was in full swing.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had always been magnanimous to Shahid Khaqan Abbassi and Miftah Ismail and dealt them with respect and dignity, he concluded.