The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has publicly raised reservations regarding Pakistan’s budget, prompting a response from the Finance Ministry. The ministry clarified that the budget is not part of the pending ninth review, which has been delayed since November of last year. However, it emphasised its commitment to finding an amicable solution through ongoing engagement with the IMF.

In a statement addressing the IMF’s concerns, the ministry highlighted the completion of the ninth review in early February 2023, with all technical issues promptly addressed. The only outstanding matter was external financing, which was resolved after discussions between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the IMF managing director.

The ministry clarified that although the FY24 budget was not part of the ninth review, it shared the budget numbers with the IMF mission in line with the prime minister’s commitment. Continuous engagement with the IMF, including discussions on the budget, is ongoing.

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Addressing the IMF’s concerns about broadening the tax base, the ministry noted the addition of 1,161,000 new taxpayers by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) over the past 11 months. It emphasised that efforts to expand the tax base will continue, highlighting the introduction of a 0.6 per cent advance adjustable withholding tax on cash withdrawals over Rs50,000 as a significant step.

The ministry defended the tax exemptions announced in the budget, describing them as catalysts for growth in the real sectors of the economy. It assured that the budget provides targeted subsidies for families with a PMT scorecard of up to 40, not limited to the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) beneficiaries.

Regarding the amnesty measures, the ministry explained that the only change made was to “dollarize” the value of an existing provision in the IT Ordinance. It clarified that this facility has always been available and that the cap of Rs10 million ($100,000 approximately) introduced in FY2016 is being resolved based on the rupee equivalent of $100,000.

The ministry reiterated its full commitment to the IMF programme and eagerness to at least complete the ninth review. It emphasised the government’s willingness to make difficult decisions and engage with the IMF to find an amicable solution.