ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s actual gross financing need for FY2017-18 is estimated at $18 billion (5.3 percent of GDP) rather than $31 billion (9 percent of GDP).

This was disclosed by the acting finance secretary while briefing meeting here. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar chaired a meeting at the Ministry of Finance on Sunday to review matters related to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Finance Division. The FBR chairman and senior officials of the Ministry of Finance and FBR participated in the meeting.

The acting finance secretary briefed the finance minister on the progress of the various ongoing initiatives of the ministry. He said that efforts were in hand to make sure that the strong fiscal performance of first quarter is maintained during the second quarter and beyond. He also briefed Dar on the estimates of gross external financing needs during the current fiscal year.

The acting finance secretary said that a recently published World Bank report had erroneously indicated Pakistan’s gross external financing needs at $31 billion for the current fiscal year. He said that the report is based on misinterpretation of standard definition of the gross financing needs of the country. Based on the international reporting standards, Pakistan’s actual gross financing need for FY2017-18 is estimated at $18 billion (5.3pc of GDP) rather than $31 billion (9pc of GDP). He informed the minister that the matter has been taken up with the World Bank to rectify the error.

The minister was informed that external inflows are expected to be sufficient to meet repayment obligations. The acting finance secretary said that, in the first two months of current financial year, exports and remittances have improved and imports have slowed down.

Dar directed the Finance Division to proactively work with the World Bank to ensure correct reporting of economic data. He also directed to ensure timely and effective implementation of the various ongoing initiatives of the ministry.

The FBR chairman briefed the minister regarding the progress in taxpayer’s outreach programme launched by FBR for broadening of tax base. He informed that senior officers of FBR are holding workshops on e-filing of returns for members of tax bars, professional bodies and chambers of commerce and industry. Large corporate employers have been approached for ensuring filing of returns by all employees receiving taxable salary. Help desks have been established in tax offices throughout the country and FBR’s helpline and website have been revamped to facilitate return filing, he added.

The FBR chairman informed the minister that the efforts in this direction are yielding results and up to October 13, more than 352,000 returns have been received as against 162,000 returns received up to the same date last year. The minister was further informed that specialised Broadening of Tax Base (BTB) zones will become fully operational with effect from November 1, 2017.

Dar expressed satisfaction on the progress made by FBR and stated that the last date for filing of returns was extended to October 31, based on the genuine demands from tax professionals and trade organisations. He said that given this facilitation which has been extended to trade bodies and taxpayers, FBR should now work closely with representative bodies to ensure that returns due for the current year are filed by October 31, 2017.