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FBR blamed for country’s ‘existential crisis’

ISLAMABAD: Economic experts on Wednesday opined the Federal Board of Revenue’s failures were creating an ‘existential crisis’ for Pakistan.

Briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, special guests Dr Salman Shah and Sakib Sherani, a former minister and an adviser, blamed the FBR for many problems confronting the economy.

Seeking comments of MNAs on the issue, Committee Chairman Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh said, “It is the responsibility of all parliamentarians to suggest remedies rising above the party divide.”

Identifying terrorism and law and order as a major challenge Dr Shah called Pakistan “a war economy.”

To him the second most serious challenge was the ‘youth bulge’. “Around 110 million Pakistanis are below the age of 25 years, that is more than the whole of Germany,” he said.

“We need around three million new jobs annually. But is the economy growing enough to cater to these two challenges? No!” he said.

“We need resources to finance security operations,” he added, “As for youth bulge, with high illiteracy and low job creation this is a risk too.”

Mr Sheerani highlighted that only 0.24 per cent of the population pays taxes in Pakistan whereas it was 2.7pc in India. “The tax regime is flawed and the FBR is in a mess,” he said.

PML-N MNA from Faisalabad, Mian Abdul Mannan sought Dr Shah’s views on the FBR.

Mr Mannan was the flag bearer of Voluntary Tax Compliance Scheme (VTCS).

Mr Shah added the reason behind VTCS’s failure the lack of trust on the FBR. Mr Sheerani said the uneven tax burden was compelling the formal sector to relocate, de-industrialise or become informal. “Without improvement in the FBR, the private sector will not invest in the country and the growth rate will not improve,” Mr Sheerani summed up.