ISLAMABAD-Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Tuesday said that Pakistan could achieve 7 percent GDP growth rate in the next two years after recording eight-year highest growth of 4.7 percent in the last financial year, 2015-16.

He further said the government had met the tax collection target in the last fiscal year without revising it downward. “The collection of Rs3112 billion taxes last year is a historic achievement,” he said, and added this was the highest growth target in terms of exact numbers in any fiscal year.

Addressing a ceremony here at the Federal Board of Revenue, the finance minister hoped the tax collection target set for the current year, which is Rs3612 billion, would also be achieved. He further said that 60 percent increase in tax collection during the last three years had brought down the budgetary deficit from 8.8 percent of the GDP in 2013 to around 4.5 percent in July 2016.

Dar said that Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves had touched the historic level of $23 billion. He dispelled the impression that these reserves had been built with borrowed money, and said the country obtained $15.5 billion in three years and paid back $10 billion of loans secured by previous governments.

The minister said Pakistan had a bright future provided there was a consensus among political parties on the economic agenda.

Dar said the country could become the 18th largest economy of the world in half the period than originally predicted.

“Prediction proved wrong regarding country’s default, as the government has achieved the economic growth by following the reforms that would continue in future,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, a delegation of the Abu Dhabi Group, led by Group Chairman Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, called on Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Tuesday.

Jean Yves Charlier, CEO VimpelCom, accompanied the delegation, while Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rahman was also present in the meeting.

Talking to members of the delegation, Dar said the government had embarked upon the journey of achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth as well as employment generation after achieving macro-economic stability.

“The government welcomes foreign investment in Pakistan, and will facilitate the foreign investors,” Dar said, adding, “Foreign investors are taking interest in acquisitions and mergers, which is a positive development.” The minister also welcomed the merger of Pakistan Mobile Communications Limited (the ‘PMCL’) and Warid Telecom (Pvt.) Ltd, which is likely to be finalised soon.

The two companies, it may be recalled here, had entered into an Acquisition Agreement on November 26, 2015, pursuant to which, PMCL and Warid shall merge subject to all regulatory approvals and compliance with legal and procedural formalities.

The minister said the merger was a proof of the strength gained by Pakistan’s economy and the business opportunities provided by Pakistan to prospective investors.

Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan on the occasion expressed gratitude for the facilitation extended by all stakeholders in connection with the merger.

He said that Pakistan had become an attractive investment destination due to turnaround in its economy during the last three years as a result of far reaching and comprehensive reforms.

He hoped that with the merger, the telecom service in Pakistan would improve in quality and outreach; thereby helping people in remote areas.

Al Nahyan further said that integrating network assets would help introduce new products and services like mobile financial services, mobile apps and other value added services.

The merger would also result in superior customer experience as well as easier access and availability due to wider distribution network.

Chairman Abu Dhabi Group expressed the optimism that the merger would also encourage other foreign investors to take up commercial activities in Pakistan.

In the end, he thanked Dar and his team for receiving the delegation and extending support and facilitation for the new venture.