ISLAMABAD - A parliamentary committee on Tuesday sought details of increase in debt and liabilities and decline in the country’s foreign exchange reserves from the Ministry of Finance and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance, which met under the Chairmanship of Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh, has asked the ministry and SBP to give details of increase in financial year debt and liabilities from June 30, 2016 to October 31, 2017. The committee also sought details of decline in SBP financial year reserves from October 31, 2016 to October 31, 2017. It has also asked to share the mitigation plans for averting external account crisis and SBP data for credit swaps from June 30, 2016 to October 31, 2017.

The committee expressed displeasure over the absence of the finance minister and finance secretary from the committee’s meeting. Committee member Daniyal Aziz said that no action has been taken against those people which were named in Panama papers leaks. However, former prime minister Nawaz Shairf was disqualified despite his name was not included in the Panama papers leaks. He asked what Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has done regarding $200 billion capital of Pakistanis in Swiss Banks.

The committee members noted that FBR had not taken any action against panama papers nominees. The committee discussed “An Eradication of Riba Bill, 2015”. The Ministry of Finance and State Bank of Pakistan informed that it is not possible to completely eradicate interest system, as it could be done in phases. The committee directed the Ministry of Finance to provide details regarding the measures taken by the government for eradicating the interest from banking sector.

The committee was informed by the Ministry of Finance additional secretary that the ministry has already convened a meeting to discuss “The Islamabad Capital Territory Prohibition of Private Money Lending Bill, 2017” (moved by MNA Sajid Nawaz) with Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Commerce. The committee directed the Ministry of Finance to invite the honourable mover when next internal meeting of the ministry would be held in this regard. The additional secretary assured that the honourable mover would be invited as per the directions of the committee.

While considering “The Controller General of Accounts (Appointments, Functions and Powers) (Amendment) Bill, 2017” (moved by MNA Asad Umar). The additional secretary informed the committee that same Bill was already under consideration by the Standing Committee on Finance of the Senate and the said committee of the Senate has recommended that all departments concerned will complete their work till January 2018. The committee decided that the ministry will also present the outcome of the Senate committee in this committee as well.

The committee discussed “The State Bank of Pakistan Banking Services Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2017” and directed the State Bank of Pakistan to provide a comprehensive brief and power point presentation on the subject matter in its next meeting. The Committee considered “The Establishment of Federal Bank of Cooperatives and Regulation of Cooperative Banking (Repeal) Bill, 2017” and recommended that the Bill may be passed by the National Assembly as reported by the committee.

 The Committee considered “House Building Finance Corporation (Repeal) Bill, 2017”. The Committee unanimously recommended that the “House Building Finance Corporation (Repeal) Bill, 2017” may be passed by the National Assembly as reported by the committee.

Former commerce secretary Saeed Ahmed Qureshi was present in the meeting as financial expert. He suggested that this forum should highlight the main areas of economy, where the problems were being faced to the country. He further suggested that the government should provide one-window operation in all segments of life. Abdullah Yousuf, former FBR chairman remarked that the government should focus three main areas ie causes of fiscal deficit, privatisation and power sector. He said that circular debt in 2013 was about $580 billion, which has been increased, again at same level. He also suggested that the government should resolve the causes of tax gap by taking administrative measures and comprehensive tax policies should be launched in the country. He stated that CNIC should be used to expand the tax net in the country. The committee appreciated the view points of the financial experts.

The Board of Investment (BoI) secretary informed the committee about the special economic zones (SEZs) in the country. He said that SEZs will be developed by public sector, private sector and public partnership basis. He said that one time exemption from all custom duties and taxes plant and machinery imported into Pakistan for the development, operation and maintenance of the SEZ would be provided to the industrialist. The committee recommended that the BoI should facilitate the foreign investors by providing all possible facilities in Pakistan including their boarding and lodging to attract the investors in the country for development of the SEZ under the umbrella of CPEC.