ISLAMABAD: The production of cigarettes and its sales/stocks have increased by 9.4 percent and 19.2 percent, respectively, in the Punjab, during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in the province, according to official data updated on Friday.
In a monthly survey report, the Planning and Development Department of Punjab has revealed that under the head of industrial production and employment in the province, the total employment in three major cigarette industries is higher 1.2 percent in September 2020 as compared to August 2020.
According to the experts, the government’s statistics outright reject the stance of the cigarette companies in Pakistan that there is a decline in their production of cigarettes due to increase in the illicit trade.
How is it possible that the production of cigarettes is increasing with a rise in the percentage of the illicit trade, they questioned.
Referring to the Punjab government data, experts were of the view that the anomaly should be an eye opener for the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to verify the authenticity of data presented by the cigarette manufacturing companies.
The Punjab government’s data also clearly depicts that the present taxation policy and the enforcement measures are not up to the mark, and the data needs to be investigated, experts said.
The anti-smoking activists urged the government to increase taxes on the tobacco products to a level that the product would remain no more in the purchasing power of the general public and the youth.
As per the latest data from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, up till the month of November 2020, the cigarette production had reached 21.4 billion sticks in the July-November 2020 period, up by almost a fifth, or 3.5 billion more sticks, over comparative period last year. The yearly growth in the July-November period was especially strong in the months of July (up 76 percent YoY) and August (up 22 percent YoY), the immediate months after a tobacco-neutral budget.
A recent research study released by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) has also revealed that the cigarette consumption figures stand at a whopping 86.6 billion per year, while the official figures by the industry remain restricted to 55 billion, only to evade the tax.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021