IT is interesting to see the findings of a study, ‘Asia-11 Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2012,’ conducted by Oxford Economics that ranks Pakistan highest in domestic illicit cigarette volumes and consumption of illicit cigarettes among the 11 Asian countries.

In Pakistan, according to the report, composition of domestic illicit cigarettes stands at 86.3 per cent and non-domestic illicit cigarettes is 13.7 per cent. This resulted in tax revenue losses of about more than $250 million in 2012.

It is a fact that high taxation on legal tobacco brands and weak enforcement of existing laws are the main factors fuelling illicit tobacco business.

I wonder if the government is serious about optimal tax collection, then why is it least bothered to address this issue once and for all? I don’t know why illicit cigarette brands are still available in markets after the so-called anti-illicit derives conducted by the FBR time and again.

I want to request finance managers to gear up the Federal Bureau of Revenue to curb this illicit business, which is flourishing right under their nose, if they are serious in their bid to boost the country’s economy.

MUSTAFA KHURRAM
Islamabad

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