Steps for tax reforms, austerity drive to be unveiled in a week: PM informs Senate

Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday declared that his government will announce steps for tax reforms and austerity drive within a week, besides tightening the noose around money launderers, to revamp the country’s economy on strong footing.

In his first statement to the Senate as the Prime Minister, Khan presented before the House his government’s agenda to steer the country out of the economic crisis, saying that the steps towards revamping the country’s economy on its own footing will be announced within a week.

He pointed out three major steps which his government would be taking such as introducing reforms in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to broaden the tax net, austerity measures and preventing the movement of illegal money through laundering.

“I am here today to convince the senators on these measures of the government…and I also assure you that we will come out of these challenges,” the Prime Minister told the senators.

As part of the austerity measures, he said that efforts are being made that all governmental expenses are minimized, which will only bring in minimal saving. “But it will send out a message to taxpayers that we care about their money and will make sure that their money is spent on their uplift,” he added.

He said his austerity drive is aimed at getting people realized that their government will spend their tax money on their welfare instead of useless expenses. He said that the steps are aimed at reducing expenditure, check money laundering, generate revenue and reform the FBR.

He pointed out that Pakistan is amongst the top five most charitable countries but “we are also among countries that pay the least amount of tax, which is because the people have not trusted past governments.”

“We have to change our mindset – the colonial mindset – both within the government and amongst the people with a view to bringing about changes in the system and put the country on uplift and development,” he added.

He referred to the huge governor houses and other state buildings being part of the colonial rulers’ tools to keep the people of the subcontinent at a distance, adding that this should be started from the people’s representatives to cut their expenses. “One should go and see how the people ruling those countries in democratic times live and we will come across examples like 10 Downing Street,” he added.

Khan said that he would be presenting himself before the Parliament during question-hour for the prime minister, adding that he has requested the National Assembly speaker for making rules so that he can be able to answer the questions of the lawmakers in both the houses of the Parliament. “I am also here to assure you that I believe in strengthening the Parliament and giving equal importance to both the Houses,” he added.

The Prime Minister said that overseas Pakistanis are the great asset of the country, adding that the governance system will be improved so that Pakistanis abroad should bring their money back in the country. He also pledged that institutions will be strengthened and more investment opportunities will be created to attract foreign investment.

Referring to upcoming session of UN General Assembly and his foreign visits, Khan said that he will start visiting foreign countries only after “putting our own house in order.”

He pointed out that foreign loans have reached Rs 28,000 billion and “we are trying our level best to put the country on its own footing.”

Referring to the resolution passed by the House to strongly condemn the blasphemous cartoons competition in the Dutch parliament, Khan said that his government will raise the matter before the UN, adding that it would not make any changes unless the entire Muslim world becomes united against such sacrilegious acts.

He said that the government will also raise the matter in the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) and urge the member states to come up with a collective policy that can then be brought up at international forums.

Referring to the Holocaust, he pointed out that four European countries have jail sentences for anyone who misquotes the figures of the Holocaust. “That is because they realize that this is something that hurts the sentiments of the Jewish community…We need a similar policy for this matter so that people do not repeatedly hurt our sentiments,” he added.

The senators belonging to joint opposition walked out in protest when the Prime Minister left the House without listening to them, which led to lack of quorum in the House forcing the Deputy Chairman/Presiding Officer Saleem Mandviwalla to adjourn the House until 11:00am, Tuesday (today).

Several opposition members including PPP’s Raza Rabbani wanted to speak after the Prime Minister’s first speech in the House, but in an apparent move to avoid tough questions from the opposition lawmakers, Imran Khan left the House despite a request made by the presiding officer through the newly appointed Leader of the House Shibli Faraz.

“This is a sovereign House and he [Imran] cannot leave the House without listening to the senators’ response to his speech,” Rabbani said without taking the floor when the opposition lawmakers were protesting inside the House before staging the walkout.

While responding to the opposition’s concerns, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the opposition’s senators should have appreciated the Prime Minster for his first appearance in the House on its first sitting instead of leaving the House in protest.

He said it is unlike the past when prime ministers were not giving any importance to the Senate and the former Chairman Rabbani had to record a protest with the previous government because ministers and the prime minister were not paying any heed to the Senate.

He said that Prime Minister Khan had other engagements and many ministers are present in the House to take notes of the points to be raised by the senators.