ISLAMABAD - The Government has identified seven lakh new entities that can be taxed, and hopefully inclusion of them in the tax net will necessarily facilitate in the endeavour to correct the tax-GDP ratio, said Federal Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh while addressing representatives of the Pakistani business community here Tuesday as part of the Governments policy to consult the traders ahead of preparation of the federal budget. He said we are communicating with all the segments of the business and corporate sector of the country to devise a mechanism whereby we can seek new avenues for the generation of income and facilitate them for their further investment in the country. Hafeez said the government would curtail its expenditures and enhance revenue collection by bringing non-taxpayers into the tax net in the budget for the next fiscal. He said bringing non-taxpayers in the tax net would increase revenue collection, which would help in minimising dependence on external finance. He welcomed practical suggestions so that the government may decide to accord priority to the resolution of the issues which need immediate attention. The minister, while responding to a proposal by one of the participants about the taxing of the agriculture sector, said that he himself believes that all incomes irrespective of the sources must be taxed, but under the prevalent constitution, agri tax is a provincial subject. The minister appreciated the role of the private sector as an engine of growth in an open society. The private sector, he said, has been contributing a positive role, and our Government and the Ministry of Finance has called this forum to accumulate the various suggestions and proposals in order to strengthen their role in developing the economy on sound footings. To reservations by one of the representatives about the tax refund system, the minister informed the business community that from September 2009 to April 2011, more than 50,000 cheques amounting to over Rs 40 billion have been issued under a computerised programming of the Federal Board of Revenue. And, he said, We are still struggling to make this tax refund system more transparent and machine-operative instead of manual. Earlier at the start of the meeting, the minister highlighted the difficult situation when the present government had assumed office and said there was macro-economic crisis, external situation grim and revenue generation under severe threat. Now we have almost overcome the expenditure, he said, and asked the business community and other sections of the society to come out with concrete and practical suggestions in this regard so that the national wealth be saved and dedicate to economic development. The meeting was attended by representatives of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, KCCI, Rice Exporters Association, Pakistan American Business Council, Pakistan Electric Fan Industry, All Pakistan Private Universities Association and PGMRA. From the official side, the Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, the Secretary Rvenue Division, Secretary Commerce and the Governor SBP also attended. Addressing a press conference later, Hafeez said Pakistan did not seek any fresh programme from the International Monetary Fund in its recent visit to Washington, and the IMF review mission would visit Islamabad from May 8 for the remaining tracnhe of the existing programme. The finance minister said that the IMF and other institutions have appreciated Pakistans efforts to stabilise the economy through revenue mobilisation and expenditure controls. He said the IMF has shown willingness to continue negotiations for the present programme, as their review mission would visit Pakistan. To a question regarding agriculture tax, the minister said the government would take this issue to the Council of Common Interest (CCI) for consultation with the provinces, reiterating that it was a provincial subject according to the constitution. He further said that USA has agreed to provide $190 million cash compensation for flood relief, $381 million under Kerry-Lugar act and also $500 to $600 million under CSF (Coalition Support Fund) before June 30. He added that Pakistan had received $745 million so far under CSF. The unprecedented floods and soaring oil prices at international market have affected the macroeconomic stability, he said. However, the minister was of the view that GDP growth would remain around three per cent in the current fiscal year, against the revised target of 2.5 per cent, which was revised after the unprecedented floods from budgetary target of four per cent. The government successfully managed to control the soaring fiscal deficit and it is expected to remain at 5.3 per cent of the GDP during the ongoing fiscal year against the earlier expectation of 8 per cent. Similarly, the government reduced borrowing from the State Bank of Pakistan, he added. To a question regarding Letter of Comfort (LoC) from the IMF seeking budgetary support from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, the finance minister said that the IMF has assured that they would explore the facilitation. Secretary Finance Dr Waqar Masud said that the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank had to provide $500 million each to Pakistan for budgetary support for the next fiscal. Chairman Federal Board of Revenue Salman Siddique said that the IMF and others have appreciated the governments move to bring five major sectors into the tax net. The finance minister said that the IMF did not demand increasing power tariff. Talking about the upcoming budget, he said that the government is working with the all stakeholders. He said the government would give targeted subsidy in the budget, which would only help the poor class. The finance secretary said that Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST) is still on the governments agenda and it depends on the parliament to approve it or not, otherwise the Finance Ministry has Plan-B. The US government would revise the bill of RoZs in congress. Later, the finance secretary briefed the media regarding the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet. He said that the ECC has approved the import of used buses and trucks up to five and three years old respectively. He said the ECC has decided to increase per cotton bale cess to Rs 50 from Rs 30. TheNation Monitoring adds: OGRA Chairman has said that petroleum prices may likely be increased due to rising international oil prices and the final decision would be taken within three days. OGRA has indicated to increase petrol price while CNG price may be raised as well, reported a private TV channel on Tuesday. Secretary Petroleum has also said that there was immense pressure to increase CNG prices. He said that gas leakage in the country was seven per cent and CNG stations were also involved in gas theft. Thirty two percent of the gas was also being used to generate electricity. According to the Secretary, PSOs circular debt stands at Rs 160 billion as compared to countrys overall circular debt of Rs 344 billion.