Significant progress on minerals sector in current year: Asad Umar

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ISLAMABAD, Jan 21 (APP):Minister for Planning and Development on Tuesday said the government was fully focused on exploiting the enormous mineral resources in the country and a substantial clear progress on this issue would be seen in year 2020.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan has also assigned me a portfolio of special initiative under which three major sectors including mineral sector have been included,” he said, adding Pakistan’s mineral sector had a massive potential and the nation would see a significant progress in this sector during the current year.

Addressing the All Pakistan Chambers Presidents’ Conclave 2020, the planning minister said Public Private Partnership (PPP) would be promoted to successfully exploit the mineral resources in the country.

The Conclave organized by Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICC) gathered traders with an objective to highlight the business related issues.

During an interactive session between the businessmen coming from across the country and the government, a businessman from Gwadar Chamber of Commerce and Industry asked the minister to initiate efforts to exploit the precious metals buried under Reko Diq.
The minister said mineral sector was very near to his heart which was one of the most prioritized sector.

Asad Umar said Pakistan’s fiscal space was very limited and in near future there was no chance of creating enhanced fiscal space.

He said there was a time when share of federal government development fund was over 7 percent in the country’s Gross Domestic Production (GDP), at present it was even below 2 percent.

He said in order to accelerate economic activities, the government was emphasizing on promoting PPP.

The Public Private Partnership in Pakistan is not new but apart from energy sector in which a large scale implementation have been seen recently, no other sector has witnessed a major share through the PPP.

He, however, expressed the government’s resolve to promote this sector by including a range of sectors.

He said the PPP Authority was announced years ago but could not become functional due to non appointment of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and non approval of rules for the authority.

“Due to efforts by the incumbent government, new CEO of the authority has been appointed while its rules would also be approved by next week,” the minister informed the participants.

Responding to a businessman’s request for building gas and electricity infrastructure in the newly launched Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Faisalabad under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the minister informed that while chairing a meeting today, he had approved additional funds of Rs 6.8 billion for this purpose.

Meanwhile, responding to question of the participants, Chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Shabbar Zaidi said the matter of tax filer and non filer was being abolished gradually.
The ICCI president called upon the government to simplify the taxation system saying that there should be only three taxes that is income tax, sales tax and custom duty.

Shabbar Zaidi added that FBR had four taxes in total and federal excise duty was being phased out gradually to merge it in sales tax.

He admitted that filing a tax return was a complicated issue which can never be too easy to be filed by a raw person.

However, he said the FBR was automating the system which would allow the filers to file their income or sales tax return online without physically interacting with the FBR officials. “This practice will help reducing corruption, tax evasion, and harassment of the businessmen by anyone.”

With respect to trade with Afghanistan, the chairman FBR said the matter was under discussion with ministry of commerce.

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr Ishrat Hussain said the issue of trade with Afghanistan had become political in nature as Afghanistan was not happy with Pakistan due to rejecting its request to open Wagah border for Afgahn goods through Torkham border.

As a result, Afghanistan had increased tariffs on Pakistani goods which resulted in reducing Pakistan’s exports to the neighboring, he added.