ISLAMABAD - Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Saturday invited all political parties to evolve consensus on his ‘Vision 2018-23’ and draw a Charter of Economy to achieve higher, inclusive and sustainable growth in next five years.

“This is the best time for political parties before general election to make charter of economy for sustainability and achievement of socio-economic goals and macroeconomic stability in next five years,” he told a post-budget press conference.

The minister said, “I have presented five years vision in the budget to take the economy on the path of higher, sustainable and inclusive economic growth and political parties should come forward to give their input on this plan.”

He said the government will take action against those who are increasing commodity prices in the garb of budget. He also clarified that government has not revised taxes on milk and its products.

Dar said that government has taken a number of measures in the budget which would enhance the country’s GDP growth to 6 percent in the next financial year. The budget would also help in creating job opportunities, alleviating poverty and improving living standard of the common man.

He said that PML-N government would also present the next budget, and thus become first government in history to announce six budgets in its five years constitutional tenure.

“We have to pass the budget before June 4 next year, when constitutional tenure of the government will expire. We cannot allow caretaker government to present the budget, as they should be restricted to deal with day-to-day matters of governance,” he added.

The finance minister also admitted his failure in controlling the losses of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Pakistan Steel Mills and power generation companies.

“We have divested the shares of various banks through stock exchange. However, the matter of privatising other public sector entities was politicised” and resulted in the death of two PIA workers, he said Ishaq. He admitted that government should have taken these reforms.

Dar said the federal government had given an opportunity to Sindh government to acquire Pakistan Steel Mills, but provincial government had not accepted the proposal. He said that government is looking for out of box solutions for PSM. To a question about due payment worth of $800 million from Etisalat, he said that issue has been delayed due to flawed agreement signed by then government in 2006.

The minister said that actual impact of the taxation measures in budget is Rs87 billion, as the government introduced new taxes of Rs120 billion worth and gave relief of Rs33 billion. He once again ruled out the possibility of going into IMF programme.

He admitted that government has enhanced the Federal Excise Duty on cement. He further said that government would clear the tax refunds in two phases, on July 15 and August 14.

Dar defended the government’s decision to give extra 10 percent allowance to army by saying the prime minister has given the approval because army has fought a global war. He said that defence has been given preference in the next budget and government allocated Rs920 billion for it. He said Rs1001 billion has been allocated for PSDP and after inclusion of the provincial PSDP the amount will reach to 2100 billion rupees. He said agriculture credit has been set at Rs1001 billions.

The minister said that two million small farmers with less than 12.5 acres holding will be given loan up to Rs 50,000 at 9.9 percent interest rate. He said relief has also been given to farmers and poultry farmers in a number of ways by decreasing sales tax. For decrease on the sales tax of DAP, the government will have to bear 13.8 billion losses, he added.

He said tax incentives have also been given for information technology. IT ministry will train one million free lancers to create new jobs for youth, he added.

Dar said 10,000mw power will be added in the national grid by next year, which would help in eliminating power loadshedding. The minister said safety net has been increased with Rs121 billion.

He said the current expenditure will be kept below the inflation to reduce the budget deficit. He also hoped to sustain the public debt to GDP ratio under 60 percent.

The government has announced to create Pakistan Development Fund, which would help the investors in finding new avenues for investment in Pakistan, the minister said and added that government would give guarantee of $1.5 billion while $1 billion would be generated from auction of bonds.

Pakistan Infrastructure Bank (PIB) will also be established to provide infrastructure financing for commercially viable private sector projects. This effort will be spearheaded by the IFC with a 20 percent equity of the government through PDF, while the remaining share will be private sector.