PEW asks govt to cut taxes on POL products

ISLAMABAD (INP): The Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW) on Sunday asked the government to cut direct and indirect taxes on oil and gas and give benefit of reduced oil prices to masses. “Last year, the federal government had collected Rs912 billion under the head of taxes while the amount collected by provincial governments is not included in it,” said PEW President Dr Murtaza Mughal. “The government collections will surpass mark of trillion rupees as taxes on some petroleum products have been increased,” Mughal added. In a statement issued here, he said that overreliance on indirect taxes amounted to admission of failure by the FBR to collect direct taxes. He said that policy was widening gulf between rich and poor; therefore it should be altered at earliest in national interests. Mughal said that last year, the government had earned Rs149 billion under the head of petroleum levy, which was Rs 131 billion a year before.

“Similarly, Rs80 billion were collected as Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC), which is an illegal tax. GIDC is imposed to import gas from Iran which was never materialised,” he opined.

PEW president further said that a year before the government had collected Rs57 billion under GIDC, but to no avail.

“The income generated by imposing indirect taxes on oil and gas was recorded at Rs582 billion while this sector contributed over 42 percent to the total local sales tax collection,” Mughal said, and adding, “The government should improve tax administration as dysfunctional tax system is damaging the country and masses.”

 Increasing biofuel production threat to food security

ISLAMABAD (INP): Islamabad Chamber of Small Traders on Sunday expressed serious concern over increasing trend of using crops to produce fuel and called for a worldwide ban on it as it was against the interests of human beings. “Using crops to produce fuel in a bid to reduce dependence on fossil fuel is a failed initiative which should be abandoned immediately,” said Islamabad Chamber of Small Traders Patron Shahid Rasheed Butt. He said that ban on biofuel production could save the world from food crisis and improve food security situation while reducing malnutrition and starvation around the world.  “Agricultural systems are subject to the weather which if becomes unfriendly can lead to severe grain shocks, resulting in food security issues,” he added. Butt said that all the countries, especially the US should revisit politically attractive policies like reduced dependence on fossil fuel to care for the hungry mouths around the world.

He said that suspension of biofuel production, relaxing fuel blending rules and discouraging fresh investments in the production could boost supplies to people and livestock.

  Algeria plans banks privatisation

 HAVANA  (REUTERS): Algeria plans to allow its dominant state banks to list on the local stock exchange to help develop its financial markets and diversify sources of funding after the oil price slide, a senior financial official said. The plan will open the door for foreign investors to acquire controlling stakes in banks, reversing a rule requiring Algerian firms to keep a majority shareholding in any partnership with foreigners, the official told Reuters. Algeria's six government-run banks account for most of the sector's assets. French companies such as Societe Generale and BNP Paribas have the strongest presence among foreign-owned banks already working in the country. OPEC member Algeria's economy has been largely based on a state-run and centralized system since its independence from France in 1962 and it remains reliant on an energy sector that still provides 60 percent of its budget. But the oil price drop since 2014 has put Algeria under financial pressure, forcing the government to trim spending and search for alternative financing sources.

"The era of $100 a barrel is over. We have no choice but to change our policy," the official said, asking not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

"Reforms will move slowly, but there will be no step backwards."

  Sugarcane farmers waiting for dues clearance

 SARGODHA (APP): Farmers have been facing financial problems due to non-payment of their dues by a sugar mill owner in the district for the last many years. A sugarcane farmer, Rai Ahmed Nawaz, on Sunday claimed that district administration was taking no measure to clear farmers' dues from sugar mill. He said that a letter had been issued by DCO office for payment of his dues but he was not paid a single rupee, pending since 2011. Another farmer, Sher Ali Dhudi, said that next season 2016-17 of crushing of sugarcane was starting in November and growers of the area were still suffering due to non-payment of dues pending for many years. On contact, District Coordination Officer (DCO), Sargodha Danish Afzal said the district administration had planned auction of the mill in order to pay farmers' dues, but its administration had taken a stay order.   He said the district administration would take action after the conclusion of legal proceedings.