KARACHI    -   Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday urged the people to pay taxes and asked the business community to work with the government as partners for prosperity of the country.

He also reiterated his pledge to hold accountable all the corrupt elements who had burdened the country with whopping debt of Rs30,000 billion, saying that progress was not possible without doing so.

The federal government was not considering bringing governor rule in the province, the prime minister told the media here at governor house, where Sindh governor, federal minister Hammad Azhar, Faisal Vawda and other PTI leaders were also present.

Pointing out Pakistan's excellent geographic location and abundance of natural resources, he said the country had immense potential for progress and prosperity, but this was only possible if all the people pay taxes.

"We want participation of all in tax net as only one percent (of 220 million population) gives tax in the country," he said. As a consequence, few people were overburdened, he said, mentioning that the industrial sector alone was paying as much as 70 percent of the total taxes.

If everyone contributes a little, the revenue target of Rs5,500 billion for 2019-20 was no big deal, and the government could even collect as much as Rs8,000 billion from taxation, Khan said.

He assured the business community of his complete support and asked them to also cooperate with the government in its endeavour of wading the economy out of troubled waters. He pointed out that some traders were avoiding to come into tax net.

 Economic problems and govt efforts

Speaking about the debt situation of the country, the premier said a debt trap has been created, with low tax revenues and rise in interest payments on debt. During previous fiscal year half of the tax collected went in repayment of debts and interests, he pointed out.

Further, the country's exports have gone down instead of increasing due to mismanagement and corruption in the past, he said.

The way to come out of this situation was to increase revenues and lower expenditure; back the business community for massive industrialisation in the country; and support to the exporters for boosting foreign exchange reserves and decreasing the current account deficit, he opined.

"Therefore we are giving incentives exporters and removing hurdles faced by them.... (Also,) we are bringing (foreign) investment and signing MoUs with different countries," the PM said.

The government efforts had yielded fruit and the export has risen by 30 percent with remittances also going up this fiscal year, while imports have lowered, he said. Resultantly, the deficit has been lowered from $2 billion to $1 billion in a month, he added.

Khan said that on the expenditure side, federal government, armed forces and cabinet ministers have reduced their expenses. He said that in the same spirit he was eyeing to minimise expenditure during his upcoming United States trip also, as he will be going with a small team and living in the embassy of the country.

About improving the taxation system, the prime minister said, "I along with FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi will be reforming FBR (Federal Board of Revenue) to remove loopholes (in the collection system), and ensure achieving revenue target of Rs 5,500 billion this year."

 Corruption

Taking a jibe at the coalition of opposition parties against the incumbent, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that it was only aimed at safeguarding their looted wealth.

“We agreed for $6 billion IMF loan and on the other side 10 to 12 billion dollars is laundered from the country annually,” he said.

He said when a nation does not punish corrupt people, this menace thrives and forces the money out of the system. Unless the looters are brought to book, the country has no future, he added.

 The prime minister cited the example of the Chinese for sending ministers and top officials to prison over corruption charges that made it to top in globe growth.

He said that those asking for letting the looters go and make a fresh start were not sincere with the country. "Why we should not talk of the past corruption and plunder of the previous rulers," he asked, adding keeping silence on their misdeeds would amount to treason with the country.

All efforts of the opposition parties against him were aimed at securing an underhand deal from him, he said. "If I say the three letters - NRO - to them then all their protest will end immediately, Khan said, and vowed that he "will never let them go" scot free as it would be a betrayal with this nation. "Had Musharraf not given NRO to them (PPP and PML-N), the situation would have not been so worse today," he added.

However, the PM pointed out that the ongoing corruption cases against PPP and PML-N leaders were not brought by the PTI government and were instead made by them against each other.

“They are not saving democracy but safeguarding the looted money and they are in a hurry to overturn the government as we are receiving information of their concealed assets from abroad.”

The premier said that the extent of their loot was unbelievable as the $6 billion debt accumulated in 60 years reached to $30 billion during 10 years tenure of PPP and PML-N.

 Meetings with businessmen's delegations

Earlier, the prime minister spent a busy day at the governor house meeting with delegations of different chambers, manufacturers, industrialists and traders.

He was accompanied by Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar, Adviser on Trade Abdul Razzak Dawood, Adviser on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Dr Ishrat Hussain, State Bank Governor Dr Reza Baqir and Ali Jahangir Siddiqui.

Those who met with the premier included the delegation of banks, stock brokers, FPCCI, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Automotive Parts Association, manufacturers from textile, leather, hosiery, towel industries, associations from pharmaceuticals, marine, agro and food sector and delegation from construction, steel, cement and paint industry.

The stock exchange delegation expressed its confidence over the economic policies of the government and also conveyed its suggestions for improvement.

The premier said that past rulers used stock exchange for their personal benefits but now a continuous stability will be brought in the market through consistent policies. He said that the economy could not be run on the old pattern.

He assured the delegations of resolving their issues on priority and said that the government wanted to simplify things for them.

Talking to another delegation, Imran Khan said that the task force on agriculture was working on bringing agriculture reforms in the country. “We have also made an agreement with China on improving marine sector,” he added.