THE government had imposed a ban on the import of 38 items, but, realising the folly and the haste with which the step had been announced, ban on most items was subsequently lifted except three items; completely built-up (CBU) vehicles, cellphones and electronics.

The government has yet to realise that the ban on the import of CBU vehicles without analysing the import bill of completely knocked-down (CKD) vehicles is also a mistake that needs to be rectified.

The local assemblers have imported CKD units of worth about $1.8 billion, whereas the total import impact of all banned items was estimated to be less than $800 million.

Import ban on luxury vehicles, such as SUVs, could be called a step in the right direction, but ban on importing hybrid electric vehicles and small fuel-efficient cars is wrong altogether.

Although there will be no significant impact on import bill of the recent ban, the government got it all wrong when it banned fuel-efficient vehicles and cars having engine capacity of less than 1,000cc, given the fact that all locally-assembled cars are comparatively inefficient and would have huge impact on already inflated oil import bill.

An analysis could be made about a kilometre driven in a car having an internal combustion engine compared to a hybrid car, and by multiplying the same by volume of fuel import. We will be worse off with ban on fuel-efficient hybrid electric vehicles.

Moreover, the ban on importing vehicles under gift scheme is wrong as it was a source of foreign exchange for the country because oversees Pakistanis had to remit duty to Pakistan in the form of foreign exchange through banking channels. It was a major source of revenue in the shape of customs duties and other taxes.

The local automobile assemblers have been protected for too long now. They are in the country to exploit the customers. The officials in the Ministry of Industries and Production and the so-called technical people at the Engineering Development Board are no more than agents being manipulated by auto assembler giants.

With no competition whatsoever, customers are at the mercy of these manipulators. The prices of vehicles in Pakistan have again been increased in millions. If we cannot make cars economically, we shouldn’t. India started its auto manufacturing after us and has good exports. It did so only by opening its economy and not by banning or closing it.

Ahmad Malik
Bristol, United Kingdom

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2022

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