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KARACHI: The Stop Illegal Trade (SIT), an advisory forum for prevention of illicit trade in the country, has suggested the government to gauge accurate and unbiased statistics of economic damages caused by illicit trade thereby making national policies effective and sustainable.

SIT spokesperson Amna Saleem termed illegal trade as a threat to national security of Pakistan’s economy and said that important decisions related to the economy needed to be based on accurate and unbiased statistics.

“Accurate and realistic information is a prerequisite for impactful decision and policy making. Unfortunately there never has been an attempt at government level to determine the magnitude and size of illegal trade in Pakistan,” she added.

“Once the size and avenues of illegal trade are rightly pointed out, it will be easier for the Government to counter it through a systematic approach,” she opined.

Citing illicit trade in cigarettes, the spokesperson said that according to former chairman FBR Shabbar Zaidi, the market share of illegal cigarettes in Pakistan is 40 percent, while international research institutes and tax-paying industry have declared the share of illicit cigarettes around 40 percent of total market as well.

On the other hand, the market share of illegal cigarettes is being estimated at nine percent by a few civil society organizations, which is far less than the estimates that are available.

“How would one take action against illicit sector if they are not even aware of how big the problem is?” she reasoned while adding that it would also help identify the vested interest, who were evading taxes in the country.

Unfortunately, few groups and bodies are presenting inaccurate statistics on illegal sale of cigarettes. If decisions are made on the basis of inaccurate statistics, that would actually go onto benefit illegal trade in Pakistan.

“There is a similar story in many other sectors including auto parts, medicines and FMCGs,” she added.

Because of these inaccurate statistics, the government and policy makers are opting for further taxing the documented sector instead of cracking down on illegal trade.

SIT spokesman said it was the responsibility of the federal and provincial governments to root out elements that promoted biased analysis and inaccurate statistics to protect specific interests so that government efforts to revive the economy can be made more effective.

She said the government’s economic team and FBR would have to take immediate steps in that regard and make decisions based on facts rather than assumptions, adding otherwise, the undocumented economy in the country would continue to thrive at the expensive of the documented sector and general public.—PR

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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