LAHORE   -   The Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry has hoped that upcoming budget would be according to the wishes of business community.

LCCI President Almas Hyder, Senior Vice President Khawaja Shahzad Nasir and Vice President Faheem-ur-Rehman Saigal said that prevailing economic scenario has made upcoming budget more crucial. “Business community is the backbone of the economy and economic force therefore its suggestions must be top priority of the government it wants to slash the economic challenges,” they said.

They LCCI office-bearers said that energy prices must be uniform in all provinces including electricity and gas as these were basic raw materials for the industry and any fluctuation in their prices directly affect the cost of doing business.

They said that all raw materials must have zero or low custom duties. Government must eliminate Regulatory Duties (RD) and Additional Custom Duty (AD) on raw materials to enable local industry to cope with smuggling and mitigate the effect of low tariff FTAs. They said that rate of duties for trade and industry must be same to give level playing field to SMEs. They said that Custom Duties (CD) on intermediary products should be reduced to enable industry to import quality materials, components and machinery from the rest of the world at the same duty rate at which it imported through different FTAs. They said that nonpayment of refunds was drying out liquidity from the markets. Payment through promissory notes should also be extended to all sectors including five zero rated sectors. Refunds should be issued automatically without application, or pre-audit, within 60 days as per rules. They suggested reduction in interest rates since high rates have made borrowing expensive for private sector and discouraged investment. There should be a window of low interest rates for SMEs as these were backbone of the manufacturing sector.

The LCCI office-bearers said that the exemption from the payment of Sales Tax on imported plant and machinery for Greenfield projects should also be granted to Brownfield projects and BMRE. Special tax facilitation was needed for sick units, for which rules should be framed. They said that the Provincial Governments should re-zone areas in and around urban centres, both for industrial and commercial use to help entrepreneurs invest in green field and other projects. The Government should demarcate industrial and economic zones and set up SEZs urgently. They said that land provided to foreign investors should be offered on 50 year lease only. For Pakistani investors, option should be available for freehold and leasehold properties.

Almas Hyder said that foreign investment should only be allowed as joint ventures with Pakistani investors or as a public listed company so that local investors also benefit. All existing industrial units should be regularized without penalty. They said that warehousing of raw materials should be allowed in EPZs and SEZs. Company Office should be formed for registration of new companies. Registering a company should be separated from regulating a company.  Regulation should start once the company gets operational.

They said that there should be One Tax Collection Authority for the collection of both Federal and Provincial Taxes. The total number of taxes should be reduced to five by clubbing Labour related taxes e.g. EOBI, PESSI, WPPF, WWF, Professional and Property Tax, Federal and Provincial Sales Tax.