ISLAMABAD: All Pakistan Cigarette Manufacturers Association (APCMA) has proposed Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairperson Mrs Nausheen Javed Amjad to convene an open discussion, in which all stakeholders from the tobacco sector including civil society, local and multinational tobacco companies, relevant government departments and ministries should be invited.

The tax collecting body rejected the idea of holding an open and comprehensive discussion of all stakeholders from the tobacco sector including growers, civil society, officials from the health and finance ministries etc to devise a national policy in this regard. Local companies have also accused the FBR of creating monopolies for multinational companies.

The letter, written by APCMA Secretary Ashfaqur Rehman states: “The purpose of the meeting is to explore options to enhance tax collection and safeguard the local industry by addressing their concerns. The APCMA represents local cigarette manufacturers mainly based in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as the province produces one of the finest tobacco producing areas of Pakistan. For the first time, Pakistani brands have been upgraded to export cigarettes to many areas around the world.

“The exports have been halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, otherwise multinational companies producing cigarettes in the country have only been exporting tobacco from the country, not the finished products.”

“Due toseveral reasons, FBR has succumbed to pressure from multinational companies and is avoiding a meeting for an open discussion of stakeholders.

“The purpose of an open discussion is to reach a consensus on a proposal to devise and implement policies suitable for all stakeholders, related to the tobacco sector including members of the civil society, who are against unethical sale of cigarettes for instance to underage persons etc.

“There are controversies over accuracy in collection of information and other parameters like enforcement, compliance etc that need discussions,” it said.

“We hope FBR would look into this proposal of APCMA and will consider it favourably, for not only protecting legitimate concerns of the tobacco sector but for also securing targeted revenue to be collected from the tobacco sector in the upcoming financial year in the best public interest, especially when the economy of the country is badly hit by the pandemic,” it added.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2020