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FAISALABAD: Despite daunting economic challenges, Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif is making serious efforts to trim electricity tariff and hopefully a reasonable relief could be passed on to the consumers in federal budget 2024-25, said Dr Khurram Tariq President Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FCCI).

Addressing a pre-budget presser, he said that industrialists never demanded subsidies but they could not pay cross-subsidies for the others. He said that the industrial sector was bearing a huge burden of Rs. 245billion as cross-subsidy to the 60% life line consumers of electricity in the country. He said that steps should be taken to remove this distortion; otherwise, industries would start closing down, which would deprive the government even from the current taxes and revenue.

He also expressed concern over the discriminatory tariff of gas for different provinces and said that governments generally consume depleting natural resources for high economic value sectors but in Pakistan this principle is totally ignored. He demanded uniform gas rates for all provinces and sectors. About policy rate, he said that it was fomenting cost push inflation.

“Everyone is aware of the fact that the government has procured 83% of loans, and ultimately high interest rate would have to be paid by the public,” he said and demanded that the government should link it with core inflation. He opposed sale tax registration for high turnover sectors and demanded their inclusion in the fixed tax regime. He was optimistic that in this case the government would get more taxes.

Dr Khurram Tariq said that the SME sector was in total shamble. “26% units have been closed which were contributing 20-25% share towards exports,” he said and demanded that government must allow them duty-free import of old machinery to upgrade their units and compete in international markets.

He expressed his gratitude for the Prime Minister and said that he is taking special interest in exports and holding a meeting every fortnight to resolve immediate issues in order to enhance exports. He further said that PM has directed to clear all deferred DLTL claims, which could help exporters to improve their liquidity.

He pointed out that opportunities of hundred billion dollars are knocking at our door as the US and other EU countries are going to impose heavy duties on Chinese exports. He said that the government must play its role to pay refunds and rebate claims of exporters so that they could avail these opportunities by getting maximum export orders.

Responding to a question, he said that the IMF never demanded new taxation as its focus remained on financial discipline. He pointed out that the PM has been briefed that cases of Rs. 2.7trillion are pending in different courts. “In this connection, the government is now working on new law to eliminate a stage of tribunal and in future, the issues would be resolved by the tax officials instead of judicial officers, which is against the spirit of justice and fair play.” He also expressed concern over uninterrupted smuggling and said that the tax base should also be broadened to lessen the burden on the existing taxpayers.

Senior Vice President Dr Sajjad Arshad said that without any planning the government focused on enhancing agriculture products which have directly hit the farming community. He said that before enhancing production we must take measures to consume surplus in value-addition but this concept was ignored. He said that the government had also assured to allow the import of soybean but it could not be materialised due to red tape. He was critical of the Punjab Revenue Authority that is sending notices for the collection of Workers Welfare Fund (WWF) from 2019.

He said that the government should focus on improving the business environment as due to the current situation traders are changing their businesses or shifting to other countries. He said that 8300 Pakistani have already registered them in Dubai due to the ease of business there.

Dr Sajjad Arshad said that the share of the industrial sector in GDP is 21% but they are paying 68% taxes. “On the other hand, the share of agriculture in GDP is 25% but it was paying only 1% taxes.” He added that the government must bring uniformity and consistency in its policies to save the country from economic crisis.

Later, Vice President Haji Muhammad Aslam Bhalli offered a vote of thanks and hoped that journalists would bring these issues to the notice of high ups to save the country from protracted crisis.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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