GLOBALLY businessmen are considered to be cog of countrys economy and that is why they have always been given special status in developed countries. But unfortunately, this community is striving hard in Pakistan for their very survival. Businessmen especially involved in import-export business have feeling of being in troubled water because they are often cursed by end-consumers for fanning inflation, FBR officials say they evade taxes while bureaucrats always create hurdles to shackle their respective businesses. M/s. Nouman Impex Chief Executive Mohammad Haroon said that foreign shipping lines extort money from those businessmen who import goods and use their containers especially in north zone of the country. These shipping companies keeping in mind the limited access and resources of Pakistani businessmen, demand containers rent at their will, not giving them sufficient time to send back these containers at companys Karachi office. He said that on one hand, government does not provide conducive environment to businessmen and does not take measures for flourishing of businesses while on the other hand shipping lines companies plunder countrys precious foreign exchequer by inflicting colossal containers rent on daily basis as they know that local businessmen have no government backing. Haroon said that decreasing import duty from 20 per cent to 15 per cent is, in fact, a hoodwink for importers as government officials at different dry and sea ports impose inconsistent valuation rating for assessment on imported goods at their will and thus deprive the traders of the advantage of decreased import duty. For example, he said that he imported raw material for vehicle tyres on two containers with same specifications and weight but, surprisingly, he had to pay $3.5 in Lahore for the same unit he paid just $1 in Karachi while he had to pay Rs 8,000 extra to shipping line for containers rent. He demanded the government to formulate a uniform Custom Duty for import so that traders across the country could get goods at the same rate. With this uniformity, he claimed, government would get more revenues compared with present system. He blamed that black sheep in Customs Department compelled importers to grease their palms and in return, offer incentives in the shape of tax evasions. He also demanded the government to advice foreign shipping lines managers to give at least 25 days to traders for unloading imported goods rather than just five days. He was of the view that these shipping companies would have no option but to accept the demands of government. If shipping companies accept these demands, precious foreign exchange can be saved, he added. He further revealed that if a trader complains that the Customs official concerned did not evaluate tax properly, the case is referred to court, where trader has to deposit full tax money. The fate of the case could hang in balance for a period of even one year. In this way, importers large chunk of money remains idle with court after benign help of government officials. In this regard, Mohammad Haroon suggested the government to once again allow traders to submit cheques in court rather than cash. Mohammad Haroon claimed that once President Zardari in a meeting accepted the demands of traders and vowed to take measures to make Customs rules and regulations uniform across the country but after a long span of two years his orders could not be implemented. He further suggested that as Pakistan Railways didnt have enough freight trains and locomotives, so government should form a transport pool that could be used for the transportation of containers across the country exclusively, he said adding that though Pakistan Railways GM (Operation) Saeed Akhtar has pledged that he would provide freight coaches and locomotives to traders on priority basis but it could be possible after a course of time. He said new GM has suggested us that traders should invest to put out or order locomotives back on track while PR management would provide them coaches for the transportation of containers. PR would not get fare and traders would deduct their invested money in the form of freight fares. In this way, not only importers would be facilitated but Pakistan Railways would also come out of financial crunch, he added. Haroon, who is also active member of Lahore Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLE), has served business community as chairman Anjuman-e-Tajran Lahore Importers and has also attended many workshops, seminars and conferences abroad. While concluding, he said that the government should take steps to improve economy of the country by improving law and order situation and creating conducive atmosphere for both local and foreign investors. Besides, he said countrys laws and regulations including those of Customs should be uniformed across the country so that importers could do their businesses while sitting in their respective cities. He further said that countrys dilapidated economy demands that policy-makers should also take on board traders and importers in developing synergies on issues such as how to make Pakistan image better in foreign countries and how to generate maximum revenue out of limited resources.