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KARACHI, May 12: The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) has urged Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to complete the ongoing consultative process with trade and industry before announcing the budget.

“Our talks with the finance minister remained inconclusive at a meeting of the business council held on May 5 where nine committees were formed to sort out issues after holding consultative meetings with different government departments,” FPCCI’s former president Tariq Sayeed said.

He said there were no follow-up meetings between the government and the business community which felt that they should be heard by the finance minister before the next budget.

During a luncheon meeting at the Federation House here on Saturday, business leaders expressed concern over the current economic situation in the country and criticized the government’s economic policies.

The meeting was attended by FPCCI president Haji Fazal Kadir Khan Sherani, vice-presidents Shakil Dingrah and Haroon Rashid and Shaikh Manzar Alam, chairman of the standing committee on press and media.

They were of the opinion that the government was not serious in providing utilities badly needed to ensure smooth running of industrial activities.

About the outcome of some meetings recently held with government departments, the business and industry leaders were of the view that policymakers were not ready to listen to their viewpoint and wanted to impose their decisions on trade and industry.

Referring to one such meeting with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), they said it had been informed that the high rate of sales tax between 16 and 24 per cent was not only causing inflation in the country, but also making the domestic industry uncompetitive. “It also promotes smuggling and ends up in high cost of consumer goods,” they added. The business leaders said they had suggested that the FBR should bring down the rate of sales tax to single digit because this would not only help achieve the revenue target but also release pressure on prices of consumer goods and reduce inflation.

The high rate of sales tax, they said, was not benefiting the national exchequer because it was promoting corruption and malpractices.

“It is also nurturing a parallel economy which is already over 50 per cent of the country’s total economy. Once the tax rate is reduced the undocumented economy will start declining by shifting to regular and documented economy,” the business leaders argued.

The FPCCI leadership assured the government that the apex body of trade and industry would not support people who were involved in under-invoicing, malpractices and tax evasion. The FPCCI would support the government to collect due tax from all segments of society.

The business leaders were critical of the attitude of Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Dr Nadeemul Haq and said he mostly came up with ideas and decisions which were against ground realities.

Referring to a meeting with Dr Haq on tariff restructuring, they complained that he was not ready to listen to their viewpoint and mostly cited examples of western and advanced economies. The business leaders demanded his immediate removal to save the country’s economy. His presence in the commission which falls under the ministry of finance would continue to retard industrial and business activities, they added.