KARACHI - Sindh Governor Muhammad Zubair has said that addressing the security and energy concerns is imperative to enhance private investment in the country.

“The same applies to Sindh and particularly Karachi and that should entail a massive economic reform at the provincial level,” he added.

He said, “We have a large educated middle class, a private sector ready to play its role in enhancing economic activities, and hence this offers a huge opportunity for a real economic turnaround in the province.” He was speaking at a high-level pre-budget consultative meeting held under the auspices of Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Wednesday.

The governor on the occasion ensured the participants that Sindh would receive more funds in the forthcoming federal budget.

He said that the members of Tax Reform Commission (TRC) should ask the federal government to implement its recommendations in order to ensure timely tax reforms.

Zubair stressed the need for making efforts to promote a trustworthy ‘tax culture’ in Pakistan.

He appreciated the role of SDPI. He had a particular appreciation for mainstream political parties for presenting shadow budgets and pre-budget proposals.

MQM convener Dr Farooq Sattar, while expressing his views on the occasion, said that tax authorities should act in a business friendly manner whereas transfer of resources from the provinces to districts should be ensured.

He noted that the provincial finance commissions were dormant and needed to be made proactive.

Zubair also suggested that district administrations should be authorised to collect some taxes, including motor vehicle tax. “This will improve resource availability with district governments and make them more empowered to spend on the poor,” he concluded.

Mushtaq Kazmi, Advisor, Sindh Revenue Board (SRB) was of view that the Withholding Tax regime in Pakistan was simply like indirect taxation and hurt the poor.

He further said, “We should gradually start phasing out regressive withholding taxes in Pakistan.”

Moreover, he also stressed that effective coordination be established between the federal and provincial revenue authorities.

Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director SDPI, suggested that the provincial revenue authorities should develop internal capacities for the analysis of data and information from audit, monitoring and evaluation exercises.

He said that policy think tanks should also be part of this committee so that the voices of business community, consumers and society at large could be presented in a comprehensive manner to the committee members.

Hammad Siddiqui, Country Director, Center for International Private Enterprise, opined that small and medium enterprises in Pakistan spent over 500 hours annually in dealing with tax matters, which, he pointed out, was increasing the cost of doing business in Pakistan.

The consultative meeting was also attended by prominent experts from different sectors of economy, including Engineer M A Jabbar, Member, Shoaib Siddiqui, Director General, Excise and Taxation Department, Sindh, Afshan Subohi, Dr Kaiser Bengali, Naheed Memon and Abdul Aleem.