ISLAMABAD/KARACHI - Minister of State for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal on Tuesday said that the government was preparing budget 2018-19 in consultation with trade bodies and associations to provide maximum relief to business sector in the upcoming budget.

Addressing a pre-budget seminar here, Rana Afzal said the present government, during its previous five years, worked hard to put the country's economy on track that was earlier in a challenging situation.

He said due to numerous reforms and measures taken by the government, the tax revenues had increased from Rs 1.9 trillion in 2013 to around 4 trillion in 2018.

However, he said this was not enough as there was huge potential to collect more revenues.

He said the current tax to GDP ratio of the country was around 11 per cent which was far below the true potential of over 25 per cent as identified by the World Bank.

Rana Afzal also stressed the need for continuity of economic policies despite changing of the governments, saying that the economy was nothing to do with politics therefore it should be free of politics.

Minister for Commerce Pervaiz Malik on the occasion said that the country would achieve exports target of $24 billion by end of current fiscal year against exports of $20 billion during last year.

The minister said that during last few years, the exports continued to decline, however due to special measures taken by the government, volume of exports resumed the upward trajectory.

He said the recent devaluation of Pak rupee was allowed in a bid to make exporters more competitive and to increase exports.

The minister said new Trade Policy Framework for next five years would be announced soon. He said the new policy would be a comprehensive documents based on various measures regarding promotion of export and development of business in the country.

He said Pakistan Muslim League (N) always supports the business community and assured that in the upcoming budget, more reliefs would be announced for them.

Pervaiz Malik said negotiations for free trade agreements with different countries including China, Turkey, Indonesia, and China were in process and in the FTAs, protection of local industries would be ensured.

He said the government was also endeavouring to start formal trade with Iran and for that the local banks would soon be available for trade.

He said the government's focus is to increase economic growth and it was eying 6.5 percent GDP growth for the current fiscal year. Appreciating the organizers of seminar, the minister said that the suggestion of the speakers would be entertained.

Chairman Board of Revenue Naim Zamindar said by seeing the huge market opportunities, huge chunk of young population, and growing investment opportunities under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the country's growth rate could easily touch 9 percent by 2020. He urged the local brands to expand their businesses across the world and assured them that the government would give special incentives to the growing business companies in the country.

Former Minister of State for Finance Omar Ayub stressed the need to focus on value-addition of the export oriented products to boost country's economic growth and to reduce the current account deficit. He also suggested to tap potential of Chinese and Russian markets.

Govt asked to take FPCCI on board while negotiating FTAs

The general body of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry on Tuesday passed a resolution on free trade agreements by Pakistan and demanded that the federal government should take FPCCI on board while negotiating bilateral agreements particularly FTA with China.

Members of the general body of FPCCI have seriously taken up the issues in Pakistan trade and specifically trade deficit of 15 billion dollars while trading with China under FTA. The meeting also discussed that Pakistan exports are not getting the potential penetration in China while products from China have flooded in Pakistan’s markets. The GB member said that trade benefit seems unilateral and in favour of China.

Hence, the general body of FPCCI resolved unanimously that without FPCCI no free trade agreement should be considered or negotiated and FPCCI should be taken on board especially regarding phase II of Pak-China FTA.