Dar set to revamp economic team

| Rules out currency devaluation, new taxes

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is set to change his team in next few days by replacing the finance secretary and the Federal Board of Revenue chairman in a bid to improve the economic situation of the country, it was learnt yesterday. “The finance minister was awaiting completion of the ninth IMF review before changing his team,” said a top official of the Ministry of Finance, while talking to The Nation. He would discuss the possible change in his team with Prime Minister Nawaz Shairf, the official added.

Ishaq Dar is mulling to appoint FBR Chairman Tariq Bajwa as the finance secretary while Finance Secretary Dr Waqar Masood will be appointed as secretary of some other ministry. The finance minister wants to improve the performance of the FBR which failed to achieve revenue collection targets in the past two years. Sources said Ishaq Dar is considering several names for the post of FBR chairman. There is also a possibility that the Economic Affairs Division secretary is removed from his post. The official said Ishaq Dar, during his recently concluded talks, had also informed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of the expected change in his team.

Pakistan had faced a tough time during the talks with IMF held in Dubai from October 26 to November 5 over the economic situation, especially over the missing quarterly revenue target as the Fund has asked the government to impose new taxes. The IMF has also asked Pakistan to impose new taxes and devalue rupee. “I have ruled out possibility of devaluing the currency and increasing taxes on the poor,” said Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, while talking to The Nation.

The sources said the finance minister had rejected IMF’s demand to increase general sales tax from 17 to 18 percent in order to raise the revenues of the government. Dar has also rejected elimination of the tax exemptions. IMF has also demanded increase in income tax on the higher income slab, which was not acceptable for Pakistan. The government is considering imposing regulatory duty on imported commodities for revenue generation to bridge the shortfall of Rs 40 billion that occurred during the first quarter of the ongoing fiscal year. The Federal Board of Revenue had collected Rs 600 billion during July-September of 2015-2016 as against the target of Rs 640 billion.

“The mission welcomes the authorities’ plans to take action to attain the budget deficit and tax revenue targets for FY 2015-16 and to bring NDA in line with programme targets,” said the official handout of the IMF. It further added the performance criteria on net domestic assets (NDA) and the fiscal deficit were missed.

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