Budget 2024-25: Business and Industry Deem It ‘More IMF-Friendly’


KARACHI/ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Businessmen and industrialists expressed dissatisfaction on Wednesday with the budgetary measures proposed for 2024-25, criticizing it as anti-industry and overly aligned with IMF directives.

Trade and industry leaders have labeled the budget a burden on existing taxpayers, with no substantial efforts made to broaden the tax base or promote industrial production and commerce.

During a press conference at the Chamber House, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Ahsan Zafar Bakhtawari highlighted that the government’s ambitious tax target of Rs12.97 trillion would increase the burden on existing taxpayers instead of broadening the tax net. He warned that excise duties on cement and substantial allocations for debt servicing could harm the country and emphasized the need for greater attention to the tourism sector, a potential source of substantial foreign exchange.

Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) Secretary General Abdul Aleem acknowledged the ambitious revenue target of Rs12.9 trillion and a GDP growth forecast of 3.6%, but noted the budget’s silence on taxing agriculture income and real estate, and incentivizing manufacturing and employment. He also pointed out that the salary increase for government employees could lead to higher pension costs.

Pakistan Business Council CEO Ehsan Malik remarked that expecting a single budget to address all economic issues is unrealistic, especially given the need to meet PPP’s support and IMF conditions. He noted that while the budget should aim to curb inflation, revive investment, and level the playing field with the informal sector, it fell short of these expectations. He also criticized the super tax and double taxation of inter-corporate dividends, which could result in a high effective tax rate for shareholders, and noted that the removal of the holding period for Capital Gains Tax could hurt the capital market.

Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Iftikhar Ahmed Sheikh and BMG Chairman Zubair Motiwalla described the budget as anti-industry and IMF-friendly, citing a 48.7% increase in the revenue target and other measures that would further burden existing taxpayers. They warned that new taxes would escalate production costs and inflation.

The Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) labeled the budget a ‘sugar-coated’ effort, with RCCI President Saqib Rafiq rejecting the increase in the tax slab to 45%. However, he praised the higher taxes on luxury vehicles and the steps towards digitalizing the economy.

The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry had mixed reactions. While appreciating some pro-business measures, LCCI President Kashif Anwar criticized certain taxation steps, warning they would increase business costs and slow economic activity. He emphasized the need for stakeholder consultation before finalizing budgetary measures and raised concerns over excise duties on cement and property, import duties on glass, and higher advance tax rates on the supply chain.

FPCCI Vice-President and Regional Chairman Zaki Aijaz Qureshi noted the finance minister’s lack of clarity on export promotion, import reduction, privatization policy, and ending cross-subsidy. He also highlighted the absence of an explanation regarding IPPs, which contribute to high power tariffs.

Story by Aamir Shafaat Khan

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