Plan afoot to outsource Pakistan’s airports, says Dar

ishaq dar

Islamabad: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has said that a plan is in under way to outsource Pakistan’s airports.

Speaking at a post-budget press conference on Saturday, the finance minister said that the first bidding process (to outsource airports) is expected to take place in July. He emphasised that the government cannot afford an annual subsidy of Rs1 trillion to operate airports.

Dar said that this year’s budget has been formulated by employing idiosycratic practices, aiming to bring about significant development in the country.

He said that the post-budget press conference aimed at dispelling any confusion surrounding the budget. He said that two committees have been formed in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR0) and their composition will be finalised by the evening today. The finance minister said that these committees will continue to work until the budget was finally approved.

Two FBR committees

Dar said that the FBR chairman will also form a committee to address errors and other related matters in the budget document.

He said that the development budget encompasses crucial sectors such as health, education, social welfare, and transportation, which have been incorporated into the Public Sector Development Programme (SDP). He said that the federal budget deficit stands at Rs5.773 trillion. He said that an amount of Rs761 billion have been allocated for pensions.

Dar emphasized that public and private sectors must collaborate to drive forward the wheel of development. Moreover, he said, Rs61 billion have been allocated for the merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He said that the FBR’s revenue target has been set at Rs9.2 trillion. He said that the government’s total expenditures stand at Rs14.463 trillion and if the development budget is efficiently utilised, the growth target of 3.5% can be achieved.

Tax collection

Dar said that non-tax revenue is projected to reach Rs2.963 trillion. A substantial allocation of Rs33 billion hae been made for IT and science sectors, he said. The provinces have been allocated a development budget of Rs1.559 trillion while inflation was predicted to be around 21% in the next year, he said.

Dar said that the government intends to transfer 50,000 tube wells on solar energy. He said that a scheme is being developed for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and the agricultural loan amount has been increased from Rs1.8 trillion to Rs2.25 trillion to achieve food security and foster an agricultural revolution.

Overseas Pakistanis

The finance minister said that overseas Pakistanis send 90% of the remittances and property tax (in Pakistan) has been waived for them. He said that measures have been taken to increase remittances. He said that overseas Pakistanis sending more than $50,000 per year will be incentivised.

Efforts are under way to launch schemes that provide affordable loans, while the government will bear 20% of any losses incurred. He said taxes and duties on seeds have been abolished. Notably, taxes on inverters and panels in the energy sector have been completely eliminated. Steps have also been taken to boost urea production and conserve foreign exchange reserves. Fast-track immigration and easy access to embassies have been introduced.

He said that targeted subsidies have been envisaged in the budget on ghee, rice and pulses.

Dar shared that annual sales tax exemptions of up to $24,000 will be granted to IT exporters.

He said that in terms of recoveries in the electricity sector, Faisalabad and Islamabad were performing very well.

Electricity related matters

Regarding electricity rates, Dar suggested imposing an average rate on 10 distribution companies (discos) in Pakistan, which would help reduce losses.

The finance minister disclosed that a significant agreement has been reached with the Azad Kashmir government regarding an electricity subsidy. The minister also addressed concerns over the petrol subsidy, stating that it may not be acceptable to certain individuals, but it is unrelated to the budget.

He emphasized that the country’s prestige will not be compromised and highlighted the concessions has been granted to the construction industry.

He stated that 40 industries are interconnected and efforts are under way to enhance local urea production. Additionally, small and medium-scale industries will benefit from affordable loans.

The minister revealed plans to establish a credit rating agency specifically for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Furthermore, he said measures were being taken to increase agricultural production and thereby improve food security. He said that the Prime Minister’s Kisan package has already yielded substantial results in wheat production.

“These developments signify the government’s commitment to supporting various sectors of the economy and ensuring the nation’s progress. The agreement with the Azad Kashmir government on electricity subsidy reflects a collaborative effort to address energy-related challenges and promote equitable access to power,” he said.

He said that the comprehensive approach encompasses not only addressing immediate concerns but also fostering long-term growth opportunities for SMEs, agricultural development, and the construction industry. “These measures aim to strengthen the country’s economic landscape and enhance its overall stability.”

“As the government prioritizes economic reforms and implements strategic initiatives, it remains steadfast in its commitment to protecting the nation’s reputation and promoting sustainable development.”

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