LAHORE - Business Forum Punjab (BFP) has supported a pro-trade policy not only with India, but with the whole South Asian region. It said that 90 percent of our trade takes place outside the region against an ideal situation of 2/3rds trade within regional partners.

“However, we need to address the concerns of business community before jumping towards a Dec 31st 2012 deadline of removing the negative list, said Ibrahim Qureshi, president of the BFP. He said that the BFP is completely against this unfair timeline and demanded a 36 months initial period to maintain the negative list with a review at the end of this period before such a major policy decision is undertaken.

Ibrahim Qureshi criticized the government for unfairly taxing the common man PKR 60 – 100 billion per annum through an ad valorem surcharge on the price of petrol. He was addressing a press conference at a local hotel on Thursday.

Nabeel Hashmi (Chairman BFP), Sohail Yousaf (General Secretary), Hussain Fazal (Vice President) and other office bearers of the Forum were also present on the occasion.

President BFP Ibrahim Qureshi said the federal government’s methodology to impose an ad valorem surcharge on the price of petrol is based on a percentile formula resulting in unreasonable and disproportionally high tax burden especially on the general public already burdened by high inflation, he added.

Speaking about problems relating to equitable distribution of natural gas, Chairman BFP Nabeel Hashmi said that the BFP recognizes depleting natural gas reserves in the country, as a result of unscrupulous policy making over several successive governments. However, this gas shortage should be distributed evenly between the provinces. It is completely unjust and unacceptable that Punjab should face gas suspension for over 200 days per year.

On the power crisis, President BFP Ibrahim Qureshi lamented the government’s approach as being extremely unserious and lacking purpose. Instead of pointing the finger towards the provinces, who only got a chance to rectify many years of policy lacunas relatively recently, the federal government needs to take responsibility for the national energy crisis and circular debt that underlies it.