Economic reform – Foreign diplomats persuading opposition to relent


ISLAMABAD – Concerned about Pakistan’s economic situation and perturbed by the political resistance to reforms per the commitment with international donors, foreign diplomats, particularly Americans and Britons, have stepped up their efforts to persuade opposition parties not to fight reformed general sales tax (RGST).
US Ambassador Cameron Munter on Monday called on PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and discussed at length the economic issues and the overall political and law and order situation in the country. A reliable source in the PML-Q said Munter urged the Chaudhrys not to oppose the reformed GST bill.
“Munter said without broadening the tax base, the country could not meet its economic challenges. The PML-Q leaders told the visiting diplomat that the party was cognisant of economic challenges but was opposing the GST bill due to public pressure,” the source said. When contacted, PML-Q central leader Ameer Muqam, who attended the meeting, said the US ambassador stressed on the need for introducing tax reforms in the country.
“We told him that the PML-Q could not support the reformed GST bill due to public resentment,” he said, adding that Munter also agreed with the viewpoint that the masses were unwilling to pay more taxes due to taxation evasion tactics of the opulent class. Later, the diplomats held exclusive meetings with PML-N’s economic wizard Senator Ishaq Dar to discuss a roadmap for Pakistan’s ailing economy.
On January 13, a US delegation headed by the Political Counsellor Jonathan Pratt assisted by the Treasury Attache David Murray and another UK delegation headed by the Deputy High Commissioner in Pakistan met Senator Ishaq Dar. Another UK delegation under Mark Lowcock, DG for the Department of International Development and UKAid, called on Senator Ishaq Dar on January 17.
Ambassador Robin Raphel Coordinator for Economic and Development Assistance US called on the PML-N senator on January 21. David Lipton, Special Assistant to US President along with Charles Collyns and Mery Beth Goodman also called on Senator Ishaq Dar on Wednesday (January 26). Sources privy to the developments told Pakistan Today that in their meetings with Dar, the diplomats sought support for the government’s plan for broadening the tax base to generate additional revenue and eliminate power sector subsidies.
“They proposed the measures to make Pakistan self reliant and to decrease its dependence on foreign aid,” the sources said. According to a press releases issued by the party, Dar briefed the diplomats on the reforms agenda envisaged by the PML-N, saying it would help achieve economic stability, eliminate corruption, strengthen institutions and solve the problems of the people.
On January 17, British Deputy High Commissioner Peter Tibber threw a party in honour of parliamentarians belonging to all major political parties and expressed his concerns over Pakistan’s existing economic meltdown. The participants who attended the dinner said Tibber expressed grave concerns on behalf of his government in the delay in introducing tax reforms in Pakistan.