–Prime Minister Imran Khan says appointment of prominent chartered accountant will soon be notified
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday announced that the government has appointed renowned chartered accountant and tax affairs expert Syed Shabbar Zaidi as chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
The prime minister made the announcement while talking to a select group of senior journalists at Prime Minister’s Office.
Zaidi’s appointment comes days after the unceremonious removal of Jahanzeb Khan as FBR chief.
The appointment has yet to be notified, but the prime minister said it will be soon.
Zaidi is a senior partner in AF Ferguson & Co, a member firm of Pricewaterhouse Coopers and has authored multiple books, including Panama Leaks: A Blessing in Disguise–Offshore Assets of Pakistani Citizens, A Journey for Clarity and Pakistan: Not a Failed State.
He is well versed in Pakistan’s tax laws and the key policy matters governing fiscal strategy, corporate regulations and foreign exchange regimes and has written extensively on the topics. He recently also advised the Supreme Court in a case concerning offshore assets owned by Pakistanis.
“It is said that taxes are the price of civilisation,” he wrote in a newspaper article in 2015. “There can be no state, and no rule of law, without proper revenue mobilisation. And revenues do not come walking through the door of the tax authorities. They have to be assessed and levied at the pain of penalty.”
“If we bargain with this power to assess revenues, we are effectively bargaining away the writ of the state. The importance of documentation cannot be emphasised enough, and documentation will not happen by itself. It needs to be pushed, and every push will meet resistance. Overcoming this resistance is central to promoting the revenue interests of the state.”
Zaidi will now have power to implement his vision for reforms in the country’s tax machinery as he takes over the position.
According to reports, former FBR chairman Jahanzeb Khan was viewed by PM Imran as ‘a mediocre person’ lacking dynamism, and was held largely responsible for the lacklustre revenue performance since his appointment.
The FBR is on course to register one of the highest shortfalls of its history by the close of this fiscal year, anticipated to come in above Rs350 billion.
The sources had said the recently appointed finance adviser, Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, had agreed with the prime minister’s views on the ousted FBR chairman’s performance.
On Saturday, the government appointed Dr Reza Baqir – a Pakistani economist working for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – as the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.
The key appointments to the key positions come as Islamabad seeks to finalise a bailout package from the global lender.
Last month, Finance Minister Asad Umar was asked to step down amid vital bailout negotiations with the IMF, suggesting the government wants to overhaul its financial team amid weakening growth rates and soaring inflation.
Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed Dr Sheikh as Adviser on Finance following Umar’s resignation, as inflation rose to its highest in six years.
The IMF is pushing Pakistan to embrace a more flexible rupee policy to end repeated boom-and-bust cycles, with many analysts arguing that the local currency is overvalued. The government has also been frustrated by the low tax collection rates during its first year in office, with the disappointing figures threatening the prime minister’s promises to build a welfare state for the poor.
The central bank in March cut its economic growth estimates, forecasting the economy would expand 3.5 to 4 percent in the 12 months to the end of June, well short of a government target of 6.2 percent. The IMF paints a gloomier picture, predicting growth of 2.9 percent in 2019 and 2.8 percent next year.
Pakistan’s consumer price inflation in March rose to its highest since November 2013, hitting 9.41 percent year-on-year, before easing to 8.82 percent in April.