PBC submits budget proposals

ISLAMABAD (NNI): The Pakistan Business Council (PBC) has recommended to the government to tax people of all incomes, irrespective of sources, to boost revenues and create fiscal space for ensuring the socio-economic development. In its budget proposals submitted to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for the fiscal year 2016-17, PBC, a body representative of about 50 largest private-sector businesses, said the government could not create fiscal space for implementing its ambitious socio-economic agenda just by increasing taxes on the already taxed sectors of the economy. The body welcomed the efforts of the finance minister for increasing the tax base. It also supported the distinction introduced between filers and non-filers of tax returns; it, however, emphasised that much more needed to be done.

The PBC recommended the FBR tap into its database for individuals and companies whose income and sales tax withholding has been done by withholding agents and who as per the law have uploaded this data on the FBR's servers.

The PBC has also called for doing away with the presumptive tax regime and in the interim period to treat presumptive tax as a minimum tax.

The PBC demanded that taxpayers should not be subject to repeated audits and that trust needs to be developed between the taxpayers and the tax department.

The PBC's has proposed that the real estate sector be brought in the tax net and conditions be created to forcefully unlock the huge potential of this sector to allow it to contribute to the exchequer.

The plight of the withholding tax agents has also been highlighted with the request that some compensation be provided to the withholding tax agents who in affect have been converted into the tax collection arm of the FBR.

The PBC has noted with concern the steady deterioration in competitiveness of Pakistan's manufacturing sector especially pointed out to the loss of domestic markets for Pakistani companies.

The PBC has suggested a moratorium on the signing of new trade agreements and a review of the existing ones with the aim to rectifying the shortcomings; these in the view of the PBC have led to dumping of cheap products.

Smuggling, massive under-invoicing and misuse of the Afghan Transit Trade have also been identified as major causes of the erosion of competitiveness of domestic manufacturing.

Seminar on ‘promotion of tax

culture’ at LCCI

LAHORE (NNI): Excise and Taxation Department is working on the principles including efficiency, accountability and transparency. This was stated by Provincial Minister for Excise and Taxation Mian Mujtaba Shuja ur Rehman while speaking at “Promotion of Tax Culture in Punjab” here at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry on Tuesday. The seminar was jointly arranged by the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Punjab Excise & Taxation Department. Provincial Minister for Excise & Taxation Mian Mujtaba Shuja-u-Rehman said that a strong, sound and equitable taxation system is a must for economic stability. He said that without such a system government cannot provide necessities of life to the people.

He said that Punjab government is making all out efforts to promote tax culture in Punjab. He said that government needs resources to spend on the provision of best services to the people of Punjab.

Secretary Exicise & Taxation Dr. Ahmed Bilal said that He said that the Excise & Taxation Department is striving for transparency and trust building between government and business community.

LCCI Senior Vice President Almas Hyder suggested to establish a facilitation desk from the Department to which Secretary Excise & Taxation agreed. He said that the challenges posed by complicated and lengthy taxation procedures, should be tackled on priority basis to give expansion to the tax net. He said that to encourage the new taxpayers, government should make taxation system business friendly and should also bring down the number of duties and taxes. He said “business community is well aware of the fact that government needs money to spend on education, health, security, telecommunication and infrastructure but to get the desired results, government would have to introduce equitable, justified and transparent taxation system. He said that instead of putting burden on the existing taxpayers, government should broaden the tax net.

Almas Hyder said that government should withdraw the indirect taxes which are not only discouraging the honest taxpayers but also hampering the trade and economic activities. While citing the example of Land Conversion charges, he said that this undue tax and one of the reasons of high input cost of the industrial sector. He also suggested the implementation of Land Record Management & Information System in Lahore.

He said that flaws in taxation system causing loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer. He said that tax reforms like developed countries could enhance the government revenue.

Fitch cuts Saudi credit rating over oil price fall

RIYADH (AFP) - Fitch Ratings on Tuesday lowered Saudi Arabia's long-term credit rating, saying the plunge in oil prices had "major negative implications" for the world's biggest crude exporter. The agency also noted increased tensions with long-time rival Iran and greater uncertainty over economic policy, now overseen by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Fitch downgraded the kingdom's credit rating to AA- from AA, which still denotes expectations of very low default risk. The outlook remains negative, indicating that a further cut is likely. Fitch said it had revised downwards its oil price assumptions for this year and next, to $35 and $45 a barrel, which "has major negative implications for Saudi Arabia's fiscal and external balances".

In February another agency, Standard and Poor's, cut the kingdom's credit rating by two notches to A-, citing the impact of lower oil prices on Saudi finances.

Last month, Moody's placed Saudi Arabia and other Gulf oil producers on review for downgrades.

Oil prices have collapsed from above $100 in early 2014, and on Tuesday were trading at just over $40.

The fall led Riyadh to impose unprecedented cuts in its 2016 budget -- which projects a deficit of $87 billion -- and to push economic diversification.

The government has said oil income made up 73 percent of revenue in 2015, compared with an average of 90 percent in the previous decade.

To cope with the fiscal gap, it raised retail fuel prices by up to 80 percent in December and cut subsidies for electricity, water and other services.

It has also delayed some major projects under King Salman, who acceded to the throne last year.

Referring to such efforts, Fitch said: "The pace of fiscal consolidation has increased."

It said further reforms are to be presented under a "National Transformation Programme" to boost non-oil revenues and streamline spending.

- 'Weaker' than its peers -

"Even if fully implemented, the measures will not prevent a substantial erosion of fiscal and external buffers during 2016 and 2017, although the buffers will still be sufficiently high to constitute an important rating strength," Fitch said.

Salman named his son Prince Mohammed as defence minister and head of the main Council of Economic and Development Affairs. Mohammed also chairs a body overseeing state oil company Saudi Aramco.

"Control over economic policy making has been concentrated in the hands of Prince Mohammed," Fitch said.

"This may have contributed to an acceleration of the economic policy making process, but has also reduced the predictability of decision-making."

The agency also noted that Saudi Arabia faces high geopolitical risks relative to AA-rated peers.

"Tensions have risen between Saudi Arabia and its long-standing regional rival Iran, and are expected to persist, although a direct confrontation is highly unlikely."

Fitch mentioned Saudi Arabia's military intervention in Yemen and its policy towards Syria, showing "a greater assertiveness".

For more than a year the kingdom has led an Arab military coalition supporting Yemen's government against Iran-backed rebels.

Fitch said other Saudi indicators are also "weaker" compared with its peers. These include GDP per capita and World Bank measures of governance, which include "accountability" and "rule of law".

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Saudi Arabia's economy grew by 3.4 percent last year.

On Tuesday the IMF maintained its forecast of 1.2 percent growth for the kingdom this year and 1.9 percent in 2017.

Other analysts see 1.5 percent expansion in the Saudi economy this year.

Capital Economics on Tuesday said the non-oil economy "seems to be struggling" under the weight of the utility rate hikes imposed under austerity measures.

Saudi Arabia and other oil producers are to meet in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday to discuss a proposal to freeze crude output.

PARC conducts three-day

training course

ISLAMABAD (INP): Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) making efforts to improve the banana crop in the country through tissue culture technology to produce disease free banana plants. Banana is an important fruit crop of Pakistan. This was stated by Dr Ghulam Muhammad Ali, Acting Director General National Agricultural Research Cetnre (NARC) while addressing on the occasion of inaugural session of three-day training course on Banana Tissue Culture Technology on Tuesday here at NARC Islamabad. Dr G M Ali said there was increasing demand for tissue culture plants from farmer’s community and PARC alone cannot meet this demand.

Highlighting the importance of course, he said that after completion of the course, trainees will be potential entrepreneurs and will establish their own tissue culture business. PARC will provide technical support to them for the promotion of this important crop.

The Training course was organized by In-vitro Conservation and Micropropagation Programme of Plant Genetic Resources Institute (PGRI) NARC. Twenty participants from different universities, private labs and students participated in this course.

On this occasion, Dr. Aish Muhammad, Principal Scientific Officer / course organizer highlighted the importance of banana tissue culture and said that a series of such courses will be organized at NARC, Thatta and Tandojam in Sindh Province.

He said PARC has introduced high yielding banana cultivars during 2009-2016 and more than 125,000 banana plants have been distributed among the farmers. These plants have shown wide adaptability and new banana cultivars hold a promise of increasing productivity. He further said banana was conventionally propagated through suckers which was a time consuming method with lower rates of multiplication. Moreover diseases were transmitted from one field to the new plantation along with planting materials. Advantages of in vitro micropropagation include higher rates of multiplication, production of clean and disease free planting material and the small space required to multiply large numbers of plants.

‘TEXPO’ a success

KARACHI (PR): The successful conclusion of international textile exhibition ‘TEXPO Pakistan 2016’ brings to end another glorious chapter in the journey of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan. A total of 650 business meetings took place between domestic exhibitors and international buyers while 18 country delegations held high profile meetings with the Minister for Commerce, Secretary Commerce, CE TDAP and Secretary TDAP as well as with the leading trade chambers of Pakistan. The reported outcome of business deals which have been materialized so far amounts to approximately $225 million, based on which it is expected that the actual business generated may exceed from $500 million.