January 14, 2012
A delegation comprising senior members of the Pakistan Business Council (PBC) visited ’90 – the headquarters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) to discuss progress on the PBC’s National Economic Agenda (NEA). The PBC delegation headed by its Chairman Mr. Asad Umar met with senior representatives of the MQM led by Dr. Farooq Sattar.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Kamran Y Mirza, CEO of the Pakistan Business Council thanked the MQM for inviting the members of the PBC to discuss the PBC’s National Economic Agenda (NEA), especially progress of in it since the last PBC/MQM meeting in 2011. He expressed the hope that the meeting would lead to an exchange of views on how the major political parties can be more actively engaged in developing a political consensus on the need for a common economic agenda. He also referred to the MQM’s Charter of the Economy and stated there is much common with the PBC’s NEA.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Farooq Sattar welcomed the PBC delegation and once again reiterated the MQM’s support for the PBC’s efforts to forge consensus among the leading political parties on the need for a common economic agenda. Dr. Sattar restated the MQM’s position of the following:
- MQM is willing to setup a core committee for regular interactions with the PBC on the NEA.
- On the economic side, the MQM believes that the budget deficit is not sustainable.
- MQM believes that all income irrespective of source needs to be taxed.
- The low economic growth rate is not acceptable, neither are the high rates of unemployment and inflation.
- The tax-to-GDP ratio needs to be improved and the MQM is willing to play its part in mobilizing the urban traders and shopkeepers, however the current composition of direct: indirect tax in the total tax collection is not acceptable and needs to be corrected.
- MQM supports the imposition of VAT/RGST but only when a commitment is made to increasing the contribution of direct taxes in total collection.
- Though MQM supports land reforms, it is willing to defer this demand pending a more equitable taxation system.
- The major priority issues that the MQM would like addressed are; good governance, improvement in the law & order situation, provision of energy and infrastructure, development of human capital, education & health facilities and general skill development.
- MQM supports the granting of MFN to India and increased regional trade.
- MQM supports the development of policies for overseas Pakistanis and greater support for projects using the Public Private Partnership Model.
Mr. Zakir Mahmood from the PBC suggested that steps should be taken to revitalize the SME sector in the Country; he was of the opinion that though energy shortages were a major cause, the poor law & order situation and the lack of governance and implementation of laws were greater issues for concern. Dr. Sattar agreed with Mr. Mahmood’s observations and promised to include steps for revival of SME Sector in the Party Manifesto. Mr. Waqar Malik also from the PBC pointed out that post 18th amendment; finances as well as the delivery of major services had been devolved to the provinces. The expectations of a dramatic improvement in public services in the Sindh province had not been realized. He suggested that the maybe the coalition partners in the Sindh province should review their strategy. It was agreed that the PBC would work to facilitate / host a meeting of the two major political parties in Sindh with the objective of improving governance in Sindh.
On Mr. Asad Umar’s observation that no meaningful debate was taking place on the economy in the media, Dr. Farooq Sattar suggested that both the MQM & the PBC work jointly on trying to make the economy a part of the national debate. Dr. Sattar nominated Syed Haider Abbass Rizvi & Mr. Faisal Ali Subzwari from the MQM to work with the PBC on trying to get the media to give the economy the attention that it deserves. Mr. Asad Umar thanked Dr. Farooq Sattar and promised to coordinate with the MQM’s nominees.
Mr. Asad Umar suggested that since elections were expected next year, there appeared to be an ever greater need for getting the major political parties to agree on a common economic agenda which could be implemented by the next government. Mr. Asad Umar asked Dr. Farooq Sattar for his views on how this consensus could be built? Dr. Farooq Sattar stated that the leaders of the main political parties with the requisite mandates from their leadership could be invited to a closed session where they are encouraged to agree on a common economic agenda. Dr. Sattar however cautioned that success was dependent on the party negotiators having mandates from their party leaderships otherwise this could turn into a futile exercise.
It was agreed that both MQM & the PBC would approach the major political parties to gauge their willingness to agree on a common economic agenda as well as on the methodology for achieving the same. Dr. Farooq Sattar promised to also use the good offices of Mr. Altaf Hussain to try and achieve this consensus. Both MQM & the PBC decided to reconvene in mid-February 2012 to review progress on trying to get a consensus on a common economic agenda.
In addition to Asad Umar, the PBC delegation comprised of Waqar Malik, Kamran Y Mirza, Zakir Mahmood, Khalid Mahmood, Mohsin Nathani, Muhammad Salman Burney, Ziad Bashir, Shams Kassim Lakha and Samir S. Amir.
Dr. Farooq Sattar was assisted by; Dr. Khawar Mehdi, Sardar Ahmed, Faisal Ali Subzwari, Senator Ahmed Ali and Syed Shabbar Zaidi.