Bajwa urges govt to expand tax base in order to break ‘begging bowl’

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KARACHI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that Pakistan needs to expand its tax base, bring in financial discipline and ensure continuity of economic policies to be able to break the begging bowl, military’s media wing reported.

“The economy is showing mixed indicators. Growth has picked up but the debts are sky high. Infrastructure and energy have improved considerably but the current account balance is not in our favour,” the army chief reportedly said while addressing a seminar on the interplay of economy and security on Wednesday. “Our tax to GDP ratio is abysmally low and this needs to change if we are to break the begging bowl,” he urged.

He also shared that economy remains a major concern during National Security Council meetings, also revealing that he reads the business and economy page of the newspaper right after the main page because of its importance.

“Pakistan is capable of creating sufficient fiscal space to address underlying structural problems through tax reforms, documenting economy, diversifying the export base, and encouraging savings to finance a level of investment that could sustain growth rate higher than the rise of population,” but the benefits should also reach all parts of Pakistan including interior Sindh, Fata, Balochistan and Southern Punjab, he said.

Gen Bajwa said that after the end of cold war people were claiming that economic interests alone would dictate national security but the “reappearance of age-old fault lines and reassertion of ancient parochial passions of race, language, religion and identity” has led to security once again becoming “the foremost business and task of the state”.

“We have to continuously ensure a viable balance between economy and security,” the army chief said, focusing on the security-economy nexus. “Only then will we arrive at a future that ensures sustained peace and happiness for our people.”

Meanwhile, at the passing-out parade of the Pakistan Air Force cadets in Risalpur on Monday., Gen Bajwa declared that Pakistan is fully capable of responding to any kind of aggression. He warned “the enemy” that any misadventure would come at an “unbearable cost”.“Our armed forces are fully capable of responding to all sorts of internal or external threats or aggression. If the enemy ever resorts to a misadventure, regardless of its size and scale, it will have to pay an unbearable cost,” he said

Apparently, the army chief’s warning came against the backdrop of a recent threat made by Indian Air Force chief B.S. Dhanoa who said last week that if India needed to carry out a surgical strike, his aircraft could target Pakistan’s nuclear installations and destroy them.