ISLAMABAD: Secretary Commerce Sualeh Ahmad Faruqui conceded on Tuesday that his opinion on the list of items whose import was recently banned by the government may have been different as secretary commerce.
He was responding to questions raised by Senators at a meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Commerce presided over by Senator Zeeshan Khanzada.
Last week, the government banned import of over three dozen items terming them luxury items aimed at bringing down the country’s huge trade deficit.
On May 17, 2022, Commerce Ministry informed the Federal Cabinet that the following factors are contributing to increase in imports: (i) increase in international commodity prices (energy, edible oil); (ii) the rupee depreciation; (iii) disruption in logistics and high freight cost; (iv) import of essential food items (wheat, sugar); (v) import of raw material (cotton, iron & steel & fertilizer); (vi) increase in import of vaccine; (vii) anti-smuggling measures; and (viii) electronic data sharing with China.
Secretary Commerce informed the Committee that the decision to restrict imports was jointly taken by the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Commerce as this case is related to Balance of Payment (BoP) being dealt by the Finance Ministry.
Senator Abdul Qadir remarked that Pakistan’s key issue is trade deficit which was over $ 43 billion during the first ten months of current fiscal year.
Secretary Commerce stated that exports are one of the cheapest ways to earn dollars and further noted that World Trade Organization (WTO) has been intimated about the decision taken by the government, adding that the list will be reviewed after two months.
“Dollar saving target was not being achieved due to which this decision was taken. The list can be altered in case of improvement in the current situation,” Secretary Commerce added.
Secretary of Commerce added that “we have been told that this initiative can save $ 500 million annually but in a few days the situation will become clear.”
Items being imported through barter trade land routes have been exempted from the ban. Imports of goods from Afghanistan are also not banned. He said that there are many items in this list which are available in the country, adding that a helpline has been set up in this regard which would help in resolving any problems faced by the people. The situation will improve after two months.
Presenting his viewpoint, Chairman of the Standing Committee said that the ban on imported goods is not the solution to the problem as it will increase the trend of smuggling. He hoped that this ban would be temporary. The chairman of the committee called for a detailed briefing on regulatory duty in the next meeting and sought a detailed briefing from the Ministry of Commerce in the next meeting regarding regulatory duty on imported goods and Export Development Fund.
With reference to the public petition of the late Zahid Pervez Sheikh, the officials of State Life updated committee members about the matter. The committee members decided to pay Rs 0.1 million to the deceased family.
Officials of the Ministry of Commerce have recommended allocation of Rs. 2 billion to operationalise Peshawar Expo Center and Rs. 400 million for Quetta Expo Center in the next fiscal year.
With reference to PSDP for the financial year 2022-2023, the Ministry of Commerce briefed the committee on the budget proposal. The project was supposed to be completed but the work started in mid-2017 which also increased the cost. Now Rs 2 billion is required for Peshawar Expo Center in the financial year 2022-2023. The PC-1 of the project has been submitted to the Planning Ministry. In the financial year 2021-2022, Rs. 800 million was approved for Quetta Expo Center and release of outstanding Rs.400 million for Quetta Expo Center was approved by the committee.
The committee members said that failure to complete projects on time increases cost. The Commerce Secretary said that depreciation of the rupee, increase in prices of petroleum products, disparity reduction allowance, increase in annual salaries of employees and increase in hiring for accommodation of employees are the reasons for the 1.75 per cent increase in the budget of the Ministry.
The Chairman of the Committee said that the suggestions regarding Export Development Fund which have been sent to the Ministry of Finance should also be presented in the committee and he will give his suggestions in this regard later. A detailed briefing was also requested.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022