ISLAMABAD   -  Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday asked traders, businessmen and industrialists to come forward and work with the government in cohesion for collection of taxes, essential for running country’s financial matters.

Addressing an award distribution ceremony of the Gujranwala Chamber of Commerce, the prime minister invited traders’ community and industrialists to work as a team with the government.

He expressed the confidence that with collective efforts, the government would be able to meet challenges faced by the country’s economy.

He regretted that country was burdened with whopping debts of Rs 30,000 billion in the last decade by the previous rulers and half of collected taxes were being spent on payment of those loans and interest.

The prime minister said the country could no longer function under such conditions and the mindset. About 70 per cent of the total tax collected was being paid by 300 companies only whereas the ratio of paying taxes in service and agriculture sectors was dismal.

“We have to change the mindset as the country can no longer be run on the old patterns. It is indispensable to broaden the tax net,” he said, adding that in the past, the people did not trust the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) due to their bitter experience.

In 2013, the prime minister said, the then minister had admitted huge corruption in the FBR but now it was being reformed.

About resistance showed by certain groups of traders over tax measures, Imran declared that he would not bow to the pressure and such tactics. He said yielding to the pressure would amount to disloyalty with the country.

He observed that country did not have financial resources whereas on the other hand, the people were demanding establishment of schools, universities and hospitals. It could only be possible when there were enough resources with the government, he added, and referred to the tax collection measures in that regard.

The prime minister expressed resolve to change country’s system on the pattern of State of Madinah. The Arabs, he added, adopted that model and succeeded.

The system was based upon justice, social equity and compassion deeply rooted in the public welfare especially, and taking responsibility of the feeble and old people.

The establishment of rule of law was the other milestone of the model state in which all were treated equally, he added.

The prime minister said those societies progressed which had an effective rule of law for all. The West had adopted concept of progressive taxation as given by the state.

“I live and will die here, and have no business outside unlike those who had laundered money abroad,” he said in an apparent reference to his political adversaries facing criminal cases.

Such elements, he said, would rejoice if value of rupee tumbled down as they would gain in their assets abroad. The relatives of all those people, who had been facing criminal cases in the country, had also absconded abroad.

The prime minister said the government was keen to facilitate business community and industrialists by introducing an improved online system.

He said the time had arrived for the nation to decide its future course and expressed his wonder that out of 220 million population, only 1.05 million were paying taxes. He said Rs5,500 billion tax collection target had been set by the government.

The small volume of taxes should be increased and everybody should join government as a team, he said and assured provision of all facilities to investors, including ease of doing business. 

He noted that due to de-industrialisation in past, country’s export had gone down. He linked provision of employment opportunities with growth of industry.

The prime minister said the government was taking stringent measures to control smuggling and in consultation with the relevant security agencies. Every kind of smuggling would be eliminated. Unless the menace of smuggling was checked, local industry could not progress, he added.

The prime minister also called upon those groups of traders resisting the condition of insertion of CNIC (Computerized National Identity Cards) numbers in transactions to think about the country’s development.

With their moves, certain elements were causing harm to the country, he added.

The prime minister announced that government had planned to create ‘a golden triangle’ linking Gujranwala, Gujrat and Sialkot, which would help small and medium industries, which were considered as the backbone of the national economy, to flourish.

He said he would also talk to Punjab chief minister about construction of roads for better communication system.

He also underlined the need to bridge gap between exports and imports by facilitating exporters. The Board of Investment was taking major steps to facilitate exporters.