No plans to go to IMF for fresh bailout, Miftah tells post-budget briefing

Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said on Saturday that the PML-N government has no plans to approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package before the end of its tenure.

Speaking at a post-budget press conference in Islamabad, the newly-appointed finance minister said the measures taken by the government since December of last year including changes brought to the currency markets will help it avoid seeking another bailout.

Ismail revealed that the government has secured a $1 billion financing today which will help raise the level of forex reserves at the State Bank.

He said the budget for next fiscal year has been prepared by all departments of the government jointly and congratulated them for their efforts.

Terming it a “conservative budget”, he said the government was expecting the GDP’s nominal growth to be slightly above 12 per cent next year, but tax revenues have been estimated to go up by 11pc only. “So we are very confident that we will achieve the 11pc growth,” he added.

Ismail said the relief measures in the budget are accompanied by tax measures, which he said were aimed at facilitating existing and new taxpayers. The government doesn’t expect issuance of many supplementary grants during the year because all actual expenses have been counted in the budget, he said.

In response to a question, Ismail said he had planned on contesting the upcoming general election from NA-252 in Karachi, but after delimitation of constituencies, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has recommended that he contest for both NA-243 and NA-244 seats.

“The package announced for Karachi by the PML-N yesterday, the MQM could not announce the same in 25 years,” the minister remarked.

‘FBR revenue has been more than doubled’

Special Adviser to Prime Minister and State Minister for Revenue Haroon Akhtar Khan praised the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) officials for working day and night to produce a “progressive and visionary” revenue document.

He said the PML-N government is ending its five-year tenure with FBR’s revenue increased by more than double and a simple growth of 15.5pc per year.

“This is no small feat,” Khan stressed, adding that while provinces were paid Rs1.3 trillion from the divisible pool in 2013, they will now receive over Rs2.3tr this year.

Rejecting the impression that the budget is not a revenue budget but a “give, give and give budget”, Khan said it is a well-thought-out budget and cited several additional duties and taxes as proposed revenue measures in the document.

He said the government has taken two major steps to improve the current account deficit: it announced an export package that helped trigger exports and increased them by 13 per cent in the last nine months and imposed a regulatory duty on luxury items. The government also resorted to currency devaluation twice in order to deal with the issue.

Khan said there was “no need to panic” as the government has already taken tried and tested measures for the economy and they have proven fruitful.

The PML-N government had announced the budget for FY18-19 on Friday. In a first, the sixth consecutive budget by a civilian government was delivered by a non-elected finance minister hurriedly sworn in just so he could deliver the speech.

This is the first budget announced by the PML-N that shifts gears away from development spending towards current expenditures. The budget also showers incentives on business and industry in quantities never seen before, leading many to wonder where the revenues will come from to pay for all these handouts.

Most of the tax cuts directly benefit what some call Finance Minister Ismail’s de facto constituency — corporate, industry and banking circles.

Source: Dawn

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