FAISALABAD                  -            Since Pak economy has plunged to the lowest level due to the lockdown, hence the upcoming federal and provincial budgets should be completely tax free while additional incentives should also be extended to the vulnerable SME sectors.

Addressing All Pakistan Chambers President’s Conference, organised by the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce & Industry, through a video link, Rana Muhammad Sikandar-e-Azam Khan Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FCCI) President, said that new jobs should be created by encouraging the establishment of new labour intensive industry.

“Similarly zero rated schemes should also be revived for five major export sectors,” he said, and added that the present tariff of sales tax is very high and it must be rationalized with maximum rate of only five percent. He said that rate of other taxes should also be trimmed proportionately.

Continuing, President FCCI said that power loom was the biggest domestic industry, which had been suffering due to the lockdown. “Around 0.1 million families are directly or indirectly dependent on it,” he said, and added that since power loom workers belonged to the lowest strata of the society, they were facing worst ever crisis in the history.

He told that the government had announced relief package for different sectors and power looms sector should be offered this facility.

He said although petrol prices had nosedived considerably, yet no relief had been announced in the form of cut in electricity rates. “Hence the electricity rate should also be reduced to around 30 percent,” he demanded.

He further said the government had announced to pay three month’s electricity bills of small traders and SME sectors. “No practical development has so far been witnessed in this respect,” he regretted. “Contrary to helping the victims of the lockdown, the FESCO has not only added late surcharge in their bills, but their meters are also being severed,” he complained.

FCCI president said the State Bank of Pakistan had announced concessional loans for the SME sector and small traders, who would not lay off their workers during the lockdown. “These loans will be available with markup plus bank spread of total 6 percent,” he added.

He told participants of the conference that banks were not properly guiding their clients.

“They are rather adding to the confusion by stating that these loans will be allowed only to those units’ owners, who pay salaries to their staff through cheques,” he added. He asked the State Bank that it should, instead, give clear instructions that no bank will unnecessarily refuse its client subsidized loan.

FCCI president further said since the business activities had come to a halt during the lockdown, hence concessional loans should be offered with zero markup (inclusive of bank spread), as additional markup will be tantamount to adding more financial burden on the completely closed businesses and industries.

He added that in order to revive the economy during post- corona period; we must focus on traditional and non-traditional markets. “South America is an important market, but largely ignored,” he said, and added that in order to ensure maximum exports to this continent, “We must appoint Pakistani exporters as honorary commercial counselors, who are already working with these countries. Similarly we should also try to enter into the untapped African markets,” he counselled.

He told the participants that advisor to prime minister on commerce had agreed in principal to appoint the Honorary Commercial Counselors in uncovered countries.