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Finance Minister Stresses on Privatization of SOEs to Achieve Economic Stability

Muhammad Aurangzeb urges all non-filers to enter tax net, stressing government will not backtrack from commitment to increase active taxpayers

by Staff Report

Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb. Photo courtesy Ministry of Finance

Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb on Sunday reiterated the importance of privatizing loss-making state-owned entities to achieve economic stability, as he hailed improvement in various economic indicators ahead of the government securing another bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Addressing a Pre-Budget Conference 2024-24 in Lahore, he claimed the government had brought the private sector onboard its plans, adding the ongoing fiscal year’s current account deficit (CAD) was less than $1 billion; inflation was declining and the stock exchange had reached an “all-time high.”

A day earlier, the Cabinet Committee on Privatization had designated 24 SOEs eligible for privatization, with authorities noting that even profitable entities should be privatized if they did not fall under “strategic” and “essential” sectors.

During his speech, Aurangzeb said there was currently Rs. 8-10 trillion cash in circulation in Pakistan and reiterated calls for businessmen and traders to come into the tax net of their own accord, if they had not already done so. Vowing that the government would not backtrack from its commitment to expand the tax net, he assured the audience that authorities had plans to provide facilities to all registered taxpayers.

“People think that if they come in the tax net, they will be harassed for no reason,” he said, adding the government was willing to negotiate with various sectors, but still required all citizens to become taxpayers. His statement comes as the government prepares to block the SIMs of over 500,000 non-filers who the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) says are liable to files income tax returns.

Lamenting the failure of the FBR’s track and trace system, he said industries’ demand for uniform energy tariff was a “just” demand. He also acknowledged the difficulty faced by businesses so long as the prevailing interest rate remained above 20 percent.

Aurangzeb also address electricity theft, saying the government was working to change the boards of distribution companies and would take the private sector onboard in this regard.

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