Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Asim Munir on Sunday assured prominent businessmen in Lahore that money exchangers will be brought into the tax net, as he stressed on the importance of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) in attracting foreign direct investment.
“The money exchanges would be brought under the purview of taxation, fostering transparency in dollar exchange and interbank rates,” the Army chief was quoted as telling businessmen at a meeting, also attended by caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi, at the Lahore Corps Headquarters.
According to a statement issued by the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Gen. Munir also stressed on the important role of the SIFC in attracting foreign direct investment of up to $100 billion from countries such as Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Kuwait. He said economic decision-making would be supported by the formation of task forces focused on economic matters.
The LCCI statement said the businessmen had recommended active engagement with all chambers of the country to incorporate diverse perspectives into the agenda of the designated task force. It said LCCI President Kashif Anwar had proposed a reduction in the income and sales taxes being collected through electricity bills, stressing the hefty bills were impacting daily lives and businesses. He proposed a “pragmatic approach” of imposing fuel adjustment charges by collecting them in winter months when electricity consumption is lower, reducing financial stress on consumers.
The LCCI president, per the statement, also emphasized the need for “greater control” over the exchange rate of U.S. dollars in the interbank and open markets. He noted that the disparity in the rates facilitated the use of informal banking channels, which reduced much-needed remittances.
Expressing concern over a prevailing lack of responsiveness from the government on suggestions put forth by the business sector, he urged a unified commitment from all political parties on a “charter of economy” prior to the next general elections. Anwar also proposed an “innovative approach” to tackling the “grey economy,” saying it should be incentivized to join the formal sector. He maintained, per the statement, that the tax net could not be expanded so long as the grey economy fails to contribute to the formal economy.
According to local media, the Army chief separately met prominent businessmen in Karachi but no formal statement has been issued on this meeting. Reportedly, Gen. Munir informed the businessmen that the aim was to put the economy on the path to recovery before proceeding to elections. He also assured them that steps would be taken to curb smuggling, stressing an “unprecedented” crackdown would be initiated in the coming weeks.