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ISLAMABAD: The Finance Ministry has proposed legislation to curb the menace of smuggling of food and other essential commodities as Covid-19 outbreak may affect global supply chain, and high prices of the commodities create an incentive for smuggling.

An official said that although the Covid-19 Prevention of Smuggling Bill, 2020, has been on the agenda of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance for consideration and approval, however, it could not be taken up owing to absence of the adviser on finance and other senior official of the Finance Ministry.

The primary objective of the proposed bill is imposition of heavy fines and pecuniary penalties to deter the smuggling. According to the finance minister, there is likelihood that the global supply chain of food commodities and essential articles may be affected, and the international prices of these items may increase as compared to the domestic market, thus, creating an incentive for smuggling to other countries.

In order to ensure availability of the food commodities and essential articles in the domestic market to all segments of the society, there is a dire need to adopt measures to mitigate the adverse economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on a priority basis.

Besides strengthening the existing laws with respect to smuggling of food commodities and essential articles, there is also a need for stringent legislation to discourage smuggling, and thus, to ensure their availability in the domestic market to the general public for their consumption in these difficult times.

The Ordinance seeks to curb the menace of smuggling of food and other essential commodities with exemplary punishment to create an effective deterrence in the emergent situation resulting from the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the proposed legislation, "any person who smuggles or attempts to smuggle would be guilty of an offense punishable with simple imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, and if the value of the goods is between five lakhs, and one to 30 lakhs; (ii) the person would be guilty of an offense punishable with simple imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, if the value of the goods is between 30 lakhs to 50 lakhs."

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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