Govt simplifying tax laws, reforming PRAL, says Revenue Minister

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BRI, CPEC sources of connectivity among countries in different regions: Lijian

Noman Wazir proposes to sign ‘Charter of Economy’

Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad invited India and Russia to join China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), claiming that Asian look is going to change through Gwadar port.

He was speaking at a penal titled: Connecting for Trade and Development: Issues and Prospects of Land Transport, Corridors of South Asia, organized on the first day of 21st Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) held under the auspices of Sustainable Development Policy Institute here on Wednesday.

“We are currently working on ML1 and ML2. We want to work with every nation to improve our economy,” he said, adding that with our available financial resources, we are committed to open more feasible and productive ways for trade and transportation. He said 80 per cent of Afghanistan is controlled by Taliban, so we need to wait should we make routes through Afghanistan to trade with other countries.

Dr Nagesh Kumar, Head of UNESCAP, India, said that the cost of doing trade with South Asia is more than doing trade with America. Some initiatives are taking place to improve transport connectivity, he said, adding that UNESCAP is working on improving and signing treaties for UNESCAP and dry ports should be connected with each other.

Nazir Kabiri, senior advisor to Finance Minister of Afghanistan, said that Afghanistan is not a land-locked but a land bridged country, which connects South Asian countries to Central Asian states.

Ms Husan Bano, Chief of Party of PREIA project, said that we should remove the distrust between regional countries. She said that once we have the corridor, we need to allow transport in a reliable manner.

Dr Pares Khareil, SWATEE, Nepal said that the transit agreement in South Asia is bilateral therefore new Transit Agreements are needed.

Mr Guntur Sugiyarto, Principal Economist, Asian Development Bank, said that Pakistan is located in strategic location holding a key for land-locked countries with the access for key to world in the sea of Gwadar.

Speaking at a session titled: Blue Economy in South Asia: Prospects for Cooperation Dr Pawan Patil, World Bank Representative, said that blue economy is the sustainable use of ocean economy which should be given social and environmental evaluation so that this sector can be sustained for the coming generations.

Dr Amitabh Kundu, Distinguished Fellow at Research and Information System for Developing Countries, India said that blue economy questions the type of development we want to achieve as it encompasses different spheres of social, economic, and environmental considerations.

Mr Muhammad Abbas Hassan, Research Associate at the Institute of Strategic Studies, stressed the need to explore new opportunities for recreation industry to invest to boost our economic outcomes. He suggested to formulate national maritime policies in line with international maritime laws.

Dr. Saira Ahmed from Capital University of Science and Technology, Islamabad, suggested engaging private sector in formulating national policies for the efficient use of maritime resources.

Fei Deng, Country Program Manager, World Bank, said Pakistan can achieve more human capital, economic and inclusive growth, better jobs and conserved environment by bringing about structural reforms in its policies and innovative financial investment in blue economy.

Dr. Imran Khalid, Research Fellow, SDPI highlighted the need to restrict industrial and municipal wastewater pollution that is impacting our coastal communities.


Speaking at a concurrent session titled: Fiscal Policies in South Asia: Why is Revenue Mobilization so Challenging?, Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar said the government is committed to taking right decisions, which also include hard decisions. “An honest and transparent approach is what we need right now to come out of this financial urgency.” He said the government will be simplifying tax laws and making efforts in homogenizing tax collection in the provinces. “We have already made efforts to tax mobile phones coming into Pakistan which will generate Rs10 billion every year. Furthermore, the government will be reforming Pakistan Revenue Automation Ltd (PRAL) and utilizing their databases to pursue tax evaders.

Commenting on South Asia’s low tax-to-GDP ratio, Mr Robert Beyer, World Bank Economist from Washington D.C. said that while there are no differences in tax instruments from the rest of the world, South Asia still strives to improve its tax base.

Dr Dushni Weerakon from the Institute of Policy Studies, Sri Lanka said that South Asian countries have up to 80% of taxes as fiscal, putting burden on population.

Dr. Hamza Malik from UNESCAP Thailand urged governments to take responsibility of fiscal decisions, generate tax morale and not to rely blindly on IMF expertise. The practice of public spending in final year of government should also stop, he said.


Speaking at a panel titled: Corridors of Knowledge for Peace and Development, Chinese Deputy Chief of Mission in Pakistan Zhao Lijian said Belt and Road initiative (BRI) along with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a source of connectivity among countries in different regions. He said Pakistan and China have been actively promoting cultural connectivity through people-to- people contacts since a long.

Furkat A. Sidiqov, Representative of Embassy of Uzbekistan, pointed out social, cultural, and economic gaps between Pakistan and Uzbekistan that hamper the relations between the two countries. He suggested using knowledge sharing as a key component in filling these gaps.

Major-General (retd) Khalid Amir Jaffery, President of Center for Global and Strategic Studies, highlighted the shift of Pakistani students from western education to Asian universities in the past few years.

The core essence of the panel discussion was to introduce new student exchange programmes between all the BRI countries.

Speaking at a concurrent penal titled: Regional Economic Corridors in Central and South Asia, Senator Noman Wazir Khattak for Pakistan Tehrik Insaf proposed to sign ‘Charter of Economy’ by all the political stakeholders. Stressing the need for developing future goals for long-term sectoral and urban/rural economy, he pointed out the lack of technical advancement in the government and a considerably higher competitiveness in the private sector.

Dr Aliya Khan, Advisor to prime minister on economy, said that the government is ready to move beyond Pakistan’s reliance on textile to enhance its exports. She also highlighted enhancement in competitiveness to form the core component of the government’s medium-term framework. She said our vocational and educational institutions need to produce trained workforce and develop their capacity for technologically advanced products.

Mr Sarfaraz Pervez from Asian Development Bank said the economic corridors have been mistaken as infrastructure corridors, considered to eventually graduate into economic corridors. It is more appropriate to align the corridors around business, and go for institutional development, political commitment, resource allocation and technical facilities to be able to reap the benefits of an economic corridor. He said Pakistan has an untapped trade potential of 75% in South-Asia alone.

Mr Shakeel Ramay, CEO, Zalme Foundation, said “we need to learn from the success models of Europe and China to achieve our business aspirations. He pointed out that political economy forms the basis of whether the potential benefits of economic corridors reach the population.

Mr. Jagdesh Pokhral from Nepal shared the success stories from his country, and how his country restructured its cities to benefit from national and regional corridors.

Speaking at a concurrent session titled: Knowledge connectivity between Asia and Europe, former caretaker finance minister Shamshad Akhter said that in today’s world knowledge connectivity plays a key role to foster innovation and drives a country towards sustainable development and economic growth.

Mr Ville Varjola, advisor on economic affairs Brussels, highlighted the significance of Asia in trade and geography and climatic problems. He also pointed out the the difference between transport and connectivity.

The Belt and Road Initiative despite being a success still lacks a basic template, said Dr Safdar Sohail, Director-General, National Institute of Management.

Mr Waqas Naeem, CEO, Ericsson Pakistan, focused on adopting digitized methods of E-governance.

Ms Anne Kofoed , Head of Sector Development and Governance , European Union (EU) Delegation to Pakistan, highlighted different projects of the EU is running in Pakistan.

Mr Imran Shouqat, advisor to Health Ministry, called for promoting self-accountability for building trust in the eyes of international investors.

Speaking at a penal titled: Avenues for Climate-resilient Development through Regional Collaboration”, Shafqat Kakakhel, chairman of SDPI Board of Governors, said India and Pakistan must incorporate dryland areas management in their regional bilateral dialogues. Effects of climate change are cross boarder and develop similar effects on both countries. He stressed the need for incorporating  knowledge-based activities in the policy formulation process.

Dr Eva Ludi, Representative from Overseas Development Institute, UK called for creating an enabling and conductive environment for horizontal and vertical development in drylands. She also stressed the need for accurate information, structure of economy, local and international support to convert drylands in economic zones.

Highlighting the impact of carbon emissions on Himalayan region, Dr Kallur Murali from International Development Research Centre, India said we can lose 64% of the total Himalayan glacier volumes till 2100 if current rate of carbon emissions is not reduced.

Talking about migration as a natural phenomenon, Mr Kashif Salik from University of South Hampton, UK said that migration, a socially-embedded process, is not a problem rather an opportunity, which requires immediate policy measures by the government.

Ms Nathalie Nathe, representative of the Overseas Development Institute, appreciated the role of SDPI in engaging parliamentarians for managing drylands.

Dr Babar Shahbaz from Agriculture University Faisalabad suggested implementing multi-sectoral policies to initiate climate change development in compliance with every sector.

Speaking at a penal titled: Readiness of Private Sector to Tap in Business Opportunities in Central Asia Region, experts said by taking initiatives like Belt and Road Initiative, we will be able to introduce our private sector in central Asia, which will help enhance the volume of our trade with them. They highlighted that central Asian region (especially Uzbekistan, Tajikistan) are rich in mineral resources like coal and oil. If the trade route is developed between Pakistan and this region, we will be able to export cotton to increase our economy. The experts said China is also doing trade within this region under the Belt and Road initiative. “There are two problems in maintaining relation between the two, one is structural and the other one is lack of flights between two countries.” Experts also emphasized that for the success of CPEC we should also include central Asian countries in it. “We should give time to finance minister to make reforms to improve public sector business in central Asian region.” Dr. Ashfaque Hassan from NUST concluded that Central Asian region should also be included in the project of CPEC as peace and stability are more important in Afghanistan and Pakistan too. END


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