Lahore - The All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran (APAT) on Sunday said overall they were satisfied with the federal budget , but with some exceptions and concerns.

Addressing a press conference at Lahore Press Club, APAT General Secretary Naeem Mir, along with other trade leaders, including Ch Mehboob Sirki, Agha Adnan, Raja Hassan Akhtar, Mian Khalil, Sohail Butt and Sheikh Irfan Iqbal, said that economy was on the right track and all economic indicators were moving in a positive direction, and for this the credit went to the present govt.

Mir, however, criticised the government for continued reliance on WHT, asking it to withdraw 2 percent raise in WHT on commercial electricity meters, as traders were already paying 7.5 percent sales tax and 10 percent WHT on power bills. “Moreover, the rate of turnover tax should be reduced to 0.2 percent from 0.5 percent,” he demanded.

He appreciated the government’s plan of tightening the noose around non-filers, but demanded resumption of the Voluntary Tax Compliance Scheme (VTCS) for the non-filers in order to enhance tax net.

APAT general secretary said that overall the budget proposals were growth-oriented, but were not sufficient to develop economy at a fast pace, as the finance minister had not shared the details of foreign investment with the nation. “Neither the government has explained how it would bridge the trade deficit,” he added.

“We consider the budget targets for the next year; especially the GDP growth target of 5.7 percent, highly challenging, and it will depend on growth in the agriculture and export sectors. If these fare well, the targets can be met,” Mir said.

He appreciated the significant incentives given by the government to the agriculture and export sectors in the budget, and termed these a welcome step.

“Similarly, incentives given to the CPEC projects and businesses linked to Gwadar Free Zone are also appreciable,” he added.

Mir, however, noted, there were no details in the budget to show how the government would go about improving governance, reducing the burden on the existing tax payers, reforming the taxation system, broadening the tax base and improving Pakistan’s rating in terms of ease of doing business. “Moreover, development expenditures should have been further enhanced by lowering the current expenditures,” he said.

APAT general secretary praised the government over high revenue collection, growth of which used to be around 2.5 to 3.0 percent, and which has now increased to 19.7 percent. “There has been record revenue collection in the current fiscal year,” he said, and added, “Debt to GDP ratio is continuously declining compared to the previous years. Exchange rate is stable and fiscal deficit has been contained. The country has achieved fiscal consolidation.”

Appreciating the economic reforms undertaken by the government, he said these had helped achieve macroeconomic stability which was now widely acknowledged. “In the past two years, progress went beyond 4 percent and reached 4.7 percent – the highest in eight years, which would have been better if the cotton crop hadn’t suffered a fall of 28 percent,” he observed.

Mir pointed out the international agencies had declared that Pakistan’s economy was back on track and had made a significant progress.

“An international agency, Bloomberg, in its report, has lauded the achievements of the government despite the fact there were sit-ins and protests in the country,” he added.

He said according to the Bloomberg, the government had managed to turn around the economy after political disturbances by some opposition parties. “Likewise, Moody’s has also rated Pakistan’s economy from stable to positive due to its sustainable foreign currency reserves and stable bonds in the international market,” he elaborated.

“The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has also allowed Pakistan to deal with it for any loan due to an improvement in its macroeconomic indicators,” he concluded.

APP adds from Islamabad: Despite surge in the prices of petroleum products in the international market and financial constraints, the government's decision to keep the oil prices unchanged in June appeared to be a real respite for the general public during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan.

The government will bear Rs8.5 billion expenses to maintain the prices, leaving no justification for the 'mafia' planning to mint extra money from consumers on edibles, items of daily use and commuters in the name of petrol price hike.

People from different walks of life have appreciated this step of the government, pinning high hopes that there would be an effective mechanism of check and balance to ensure provision of edibles at controlled rates during the month. of fasting.

Abdul Waheed, a senior citizen residing in Model Town (Humak), a rural area of the federal capital, told APP that now it was the responsibility of the respective district administrations to ensure trickle-down effects of the lowered POL prices for the common man.

He said the government's decision would remain useless, if there was no check on the elements fleecing the general public by creating artificial price hike, hoarding and black-marketing of the items of daily use, particularly vegetables and fruits ahead of Ramadan.

Zaheer Khan, a government servant, said the decision of not increasing the oil prices had come as relief for the common man, as it would not only ensure availability of edibles at the prescribed rates in the holy month, but would also help them in Eid preparations.

The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FPCCI) has lauded the government’s decision to retain the petroleum prices, hoping this would be a big relief for the masses, especially in Ramadan. "We appreciate that the federal government has rejected the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority's (OGRA) summary of increasing prices of petroleum products," FPCCI Vice President Riaz Khattak said.

He said retaining the old prices would play an important role in controlling the food prices, and timely intervention by the Prime Minister had once again won the confidence of the body of traders.

FPCCI, he said, would fully cooperate with the government for realising the economic targets, in which expanding the tax net was of paramount importance.