Investment in public sector services govt’s top priority: FBR member

Addressing the pre-budget seminar ‘Federal Budget 2017-18 and the Philanthropy Sector’ held by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Monday, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) member Dr Muhmmad Iqbal said that the government was open receive suggestions on how the tax regime could  facilitate the philanthropy sector further.

However, its focus would be to extend state provided health, education, and other services to the population as a vacuum in this regard had provided extremism to creep into society previously, he said.

The seminar was attended by a large number of representatives from numerous stake holders, including research and academic institutes. The speakers underpinned the need for an improved tax regime and the removal of the trust deficit between the government and the private sector, especially for the improvement the philanthropy sector.

Dr Iqbal said that the FBR was already offering a number of incentives to organizations involved in philanthropic work. However, the priority for the government was to invest in public sector services as leaving it only to non-state organisations has its own unwarranted consequences.

“Certain organizations have promoted extremism in society in the past in the name of philanthropy,” Iqbal said, adding that foolproof regulation on the part of government was needed for the smooth running of the sector.

He further said that privileged classes were unfortunately not paying their share of taxes and thus there was not enough money available to invest on the underprivileged. Thus, he said, we need to redress the system’s structural defects.

Dr Shaharyar Toru of the SDPI earlier said that some fundamental aspects of the philanthropy sector needed to be revisited.  He said that it would be critical to analyze the impact that fiscal incentives have on philanthropy and how a favorable fiscal environment could be instrumental in the development of the nation’s nonprofit sector.

Speaking on the occasion, Social Action Consortium Chairman Dr Zafar Qadir said that avenues for public-private cooperation should be explored to tap the potential of the philanthropy sector in Pakistan.

Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP) Executive Director Shazia Maqsood Amjad presented a detailed outlook of the country’s philanthropy sector. She said that according to research carried out by the PCP, Pakistanis give Rs 240 billion to various kinds of charities annually.

Hashoo Foundation Country Director Ayesha Khan also shared her views with the audience and said that the corporate sector was ready to lend its support and provide its input to the government for removing the trust deficit between the government and the private sector.

Shah Nawaz Mohal

The writer is a law graduate and member of staff, Islamabad Bureau.