All Pakistan Business Forum (APBF) has said that Pakistan needs millions of jobs annually but the government has not taken any concrete step in federal budget for job creations for the unemployed youth.

The APBF had submitted proposals with the federal government, urging it to come up with a relief-oriented budget in the face of Covid-19, but unfortunately no such announcement in this regard was made.

Commenting on the 2020-21 Budget, APBF President Syed Maaz Mahmood termed it a bubble budget, apparently feeling good but does not contain substance. He condemned the economic manager’s calculator approach in finalizing the budget, which focused more on revenue collection and less on the fulfillment of its major objective of giving a long-term direction to the economy.

He stated that the Forum had demanded of the government to take concrete steps in the upcoming Federal Budget 2020-21 to keep industrial wheel running especially of SMEs, saving the livelihood of millions of workers associated with the small industries. “The government will have to make visible reduction in taxes in the budget to help revive the businesses, which are near to bankruptcies owing to prolonged worldwide lockdowns amidst coronavirus.

The major focus should have been on greater relief to the documented and registered SMEs.”

He said that with a view to save the economy from the impacts of the slowdown due to the COVID-19 the government should announce special incentives for a cash-strapped Small and Medium Industry, which represents more than 90 percent of around 3.2 million business enterprises in Pakistan.

We again asks the government that through amendment in the budget, it should allocate a sizeable amount for a soft loan with maximum markup rate of 3% especially for SMEs, as the rest of the world has been providing loans at zero percent markup to bail out their collapsing businesses,” he demanded. He said that the no financial plan has been placed for the Covid-19-hit domestic as well as the export industry who have been severely affected due to the prolonged lockdown.

He said that the APBF was expecting a relief-focused budget, with huge relaxation in utility tariffs to facilitate the documented and registered SMEs and the whole and industry.

He said that our fundamental demand of reduction in sales tax from 17 percent to single digit was not accepted, as not a single percent cut in ST has been proposed in the budget.

Syed Maaz Mahmood stated this budget shows the failure of the Federal Board of Revenue as the reduction of taxpayers in active taxpayers list clearly indicates the failure of the government, he added. Terming the federal budget as a number game with no incentives for industry and more privileges for few sectors, he said that the government is non-serious to explore new venues for revenue generation and no efforts had been taken to plug revenue leakages amounting in billions.

APBF President criticised the Federal Board of Revenue for failing in broadening of tax base. The government instead of generating revenue from direct taxes showed its intention to collect revenue through withholding tax. He said that like the previous governments, this one too has refrained from bringing big fishes into the tax net or even taking measures to prevent major tax evasions. The government attempted to squeeze the neck of old taxpayers instead of taking efforts to bring new taxpayers into tax net. He questioned the claims of the government regarding reduction in unemployment, improvement in per capita income and reduce cost of production in the country.