GUJRAT: The three chambers of commerce and industry of what is termed as “golden industrial triangle” comprising Gujrat, Gujranwala and Sialkot cities, have expressed their grave concern over China’s reported plan of establishing industrial units and warehouses along the route of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The leadership of these three chambers has also urged the federal government to take the business community of these industrial cities in confidence about the nature of China’s planned industrial units in the country, warning of its adverse effect on local industry and apprehending that such a scenario might turn Pakistan into a purely consumer market, further weakening its own manufacturing sector.

These concerns were voiced by the presidents of the three chambers of commerce and industry, who gathered at the local chamber (GTCCI) the other day.

Criticising the Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) for conducting raids on local manufacturing units, besides sealing and attaching the bank accounts of the business fraternity, they said rather than bringing the non-filers into the tax net, the board was creating problems for the businessmen who were already paying taxes.

The meeting was hosted by the GTCCI’s head Abrar Saeed Sheikh and attended by Sailkot chamber (SCCI) president Majid Raza Bhutta and Gujranwala chamber’s (GCCI) Saeed Ahmed Taj. They also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) under which these chambers would share information with each other and hold at least four joint meetings of these chambers annually. A large number of the members of these chambers were also present.

The meeting decided that the chambers’ presidents would also hold an exclusive meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to share their concerns over the Chinese industrial units along the CPEC route. It regretted the government had not taken the chambers in confidence over the issue.

Mr Abrar Saeed said the accounts of those businessmen who were in the tax net should not be sealed, nor the FBR officials should be given access to their accounts. He said such actions of the FBR were causing disillusionment among the businessmen with regard to the PML-N government.

Mr Bhutta said the local manufacturers’ concerns over the CPEC’s possible effects on the local industry should be addressed forthwith, apprehending that such a situation might hit exports from these cities.

He also sought establishment of new varsities’ campuses at such locations in the region that suited these three cities where the industry wanted to benefit from these institutions in terms of research, innovative ideas and human resource.

The chambers’ presidents also sought easing of China’s visa policy for local businessmen.

Published in Dawn January 2nd, 2017