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Pakistan Stock Exchange up, but budget gets mixed reviews
A sign of the Pakistan Stock Exchange is seen on its building in Karachi, Pakistan January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro/File Photo

Pakistan Stock Exchange up, but budget gets mixed reviews

KARACHI: Stocks rose amid mixed reviews by the business community on Wednesday a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government presented its first annual budget.

The benchmark KSE-100 index of the Pakistan Stock Exchange rose 278.08 points, or 0.8 per cent, to close at 34,939.16 points led by gains in materials, energy and financial stocks. Engro, the country’s biggest conglomerate, was up 1.87pc.

Business leaders gave the budget mixed reviews. Some hoped money destined for real estate will now flow into the stock markets after the government made it a crime to not pay taxes when buying or selling property.

Plans to widen the tax net and separate tax policy from revenue collection also won support. But analysts were sceptical of a forecast 25pc increase in federal tax revenues to Rs5.55 trillion ($36.8 billion).

“I see it as being positive from a business perspective,” said Ehsan Malik, chief executive of the Pakistan Business Council which represents 60 major businesses.

However, he said a plan to withdraw tax incentives for export sectors such as textiles, leather goods and surgical equipment could deter investment.

The government is seeking to stabilise a wobbly economy with an International Monetary Fund loan agreed in principle but contingent on Pakistan pushing ahead with reforms and measures to curb ballooning current and fiscal account deficits.

It had been preparing the ground for belt-tightening, but the budget released on Tuesday for the fiscal year to June 2020 underlined the scale of the economic challenges it faces.

The government had been forecasting growth of 4 per cent for the next financial year, but after Revenue Minister Hammad Azhar delivered his budget speech to parliament on Tuesday evening, the budget document showed a 2.4pc growth estimate for the coming fiscal.

The growth forecast had already been slashed to 3.3pc from the 6.2pc predicted last year during the budget 2018-19 announcement. The IMF estimates economic growth of around 2.9pc.

Inflation, which hit 9pc in May, is predicted to remain between 11-13pc during fiscal year 2019-20.