Islamabad   -   The PTI-led government on Sunday extended deadline for its Asset Declaration Scheme for three days to July 3.

In view of overwhelming interest by people in the Asset Declaration Scheme it has been decided that the deadline for the scheme will be extended for three days till July 3, said Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh during a press conference here.

Flanked by Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar, Hafeez Shaikh said in case some people are still in process or are facing difficulties wrapping it up, the government is giving last opportunity to them to take advantage of the scheme.

He warned that after expiry of the new deadline, the Benami commission, that they were currently establishing to pursue Benami properties, will come into action.

Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar on the occasion said that thousands of people had availed benefits of the scheme so far. "We will public details of the scheme in a few days," he maintained.

Regarding government's budget strategy, Hafeez Shaikh said it was part of the agenda to make all things transparent.

The government budget strategy is based on five points that include managing external front, strict austerity, social welfare, helping industrialists and mobilising revenues.

The PTI government inherited an economic crisis and it was still trying to get out of, he said. Due to current account deficit and foreign loans, the external front was a matter of great concern, he added.

“Soon after coming into power the government took immediate steps to curb external threats. We tried bringing down the current account deficit. We imposed tariffs on imports of luxury products & finished products; to squeeze imports.”

Shaikh said, "The current account deficit was $20 billion when this government came into power, but it has now gone down to $13.5 billion". The deficit will be further lowered to $7 billion.

Meanwhile, the government also managed to acquire $9.2 billion in loans with friendly countries, including deferred payment facilities with Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, while the government is in talks with Qatar over similar arrangements.

Regarding IMF, he said things were also on the right track with them and if everything stayed on course, they will give Pakistan $6 billion package.

He said the Asian Development Bank had also committed some loan.

In order to repay debts taken by previous governments and make payments to provinces, the government needed to resort to austerity.

APP adds: Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh was also flanked by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Shabbar Zaidi.

“The Asset Declaration Schemes has been witnessing a lot of interest at the last minute…., so it is extended till the office hours of July 3,” the advisor said.

Shaikh said under the Benami law, there were heavy penalties and severe punishment for those holding Benami properties.

“Since the Assets Declaration Scheme is in its last stage, so I appeal  to the citizens, whether they are inside Pakistan or abroad, to take advantage of it,” he said. It was an easy way to bring the taxable hidden income into tax net, he added.

He said Pakistan would also get $3.4 billion from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), $2.1 billion of which was expected during the upcoming fiscal year (2019-20) while the country was also hopeful for assistance from the World Bank.

He said since the external loans were provided on low interest rates comparatively, so they were cost-effective and did not create much trouble in repayments.

He clarified that government had to meet some compulsory expenditures as it had to spend Rs 2.9 trillion on debt repayment while 52 per cent of revenues would be transferred to the provinces under the Constitution while it was also bound to spend for the vulnerable segments.

However, the government still reduced the expenditures by Rs 50 billion and did not increase salaries of government employees (1-16 grade) beyond 10 percent, and that of 17-20 grade employees by 5 percent. Moreover, the allowances of cabinet members had been cut by 10 percent, while the budget for PM House was also reduced.

He said funding for social protection programmes had been almost doubled from Rs100 billion to Rs191 billion.

The adviser said in order to protect common people, the government had allocated Rs216 billion for providing subsidy to the consumers utilizing upto 300 electricity units while the neglected areas like the erstwhile FATA had been given special heed in the budget with allocation of Rs152 billion for their uplift.

Despite financial difficulties, he said, the Public Sector Development Programme allocations had been enhanced form Rs575 to Rs925 billion and again the projects of neglected areas had been prioritised.

He said the industries would be provided subsidised gas to help industrial growth that would help generate jobs. In addition, the import of around 1650 tariff lines had been zero-rated to make the country’s products compatible in international market, he added.

He, however, clarified that there would be no tax on export-oriented products. If the same products were sold in local market, tax would be implemented.

The adviser said it was matter of satisfaction that process of democracy was moving ahead. Some 225 National Assembly members had delivered speeches during the budget session and the opposition was given more time as compared to the treasury benches.

He said the finance bill was given proper consideration by the Senate, and its finance committee.

Shaikh said the supplementary grants had been reduced to Rs220 billion from Rs600 billion last year, where the excess budget of seven years was also cleared.

Replying to a question, Hammad Azhar said during the year 2019-20, the government would have to pay Rs 2.9 trillion on account of debt servicing while during the previous fiscal year (2018-19), it had retired principal external debt of $10 billion along with interest.

To a question, Hammad Azhar said the government was transferring burden of taxes to the services sector as well. "Until now, the industrial sector was the major contributor of tax revenues, but henceforth, a large number of untaxed people belonging to services sector, including doctors, lawyers, information technology professionals and others will be brought into the tax net," he added.

FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi said without broadening the tax net, the revenues could not be improved.

"Capacity extension depends upon availability of data and not the existing tax filers," he added.

He said under the Assets Declaration Scheme, about 80,000 new people had become tax filers.

Hammad Azhar said the scheme was a great success as it was attracting huge number of people to declare their assets and each hour, thousands in numbers were entering into the tax net. A huge quantity of hidden assets had been declared so far.

He said majority of the new tax filers were small businessmen, shopkeepers, jewelers, and others, who were doing businesses worth billions of rupees but were untaxed.

Shabbar Zaidi said the Benami Commission would be operational from July 1 and would be fully mandated to take actions against the Benami property holders. He urged the people to take advantage to the scheme to avoid any legal prosecution.

To a question with respect to reforms in the FBR, Zaidi said major reshuffling in the bureau was avoided due to the budget and then Assets Declaration Scheme. However, work on the reforms would be initiated in next week.

He said by next week, the process of sales tax registration would be made quite easy and a person would not need help of any expert to fill in the registration form.

Moreover, by August, filing of tax return would also be made easy to facilitate the filers, he added.

 

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan termed the Financial Bill for 2019-20 the first public welfare budget in the country’s history.

Speaking at the news conference, she said government had got approved its economic reforms agenda from the parliament in accordance with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

She commended the economic team on presenting a people-friendly budget, which, she said, was a true reflection of the mandate given by the people to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Firdous said Prime Minister Imran Khan was determined to make Pakistan a developed country and the budget would convert that (vision) into reality.