SYED MOHAMMAD TAHIR
There is no doubt that businessmen and industrialists are considered to be the cogs of a country’s economy as they keep capital of their respective countries circulated and business activities hustle and bustle. That was why they have always been given special status in developed countries. Even they are made ambassadors in foreign countries but unfortunately, this community is striving hard in Pakistan for their very survival since they are being wrinkled instead of giving incentives to make their businesses flourish further.
For instance, traders and industrialists have to pay different taxes from the very initial stage of raw material import to value-added items sale to end consumers. Transportation of raw material or finished products is also an issue which every trader and industrialist have to face.
Nouman Impex Chief Executive Mohammad Haroon Arora said that foreign shipping lines extort money from 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 local businessmen, demand containers’ rent at their will and are reluctant to give sufficient time to send back these containers at company’s Karachi offices.
It is a matter of grave concern that on the one hand, the government does not provide conducive environment and does not extend helping hand to local businessmen while on the other hand, shipping lines companies are plundering country’s precious foreign exchange by inflicting colossal container’s rent on per day basis.
In this regard, Mohammad Haroon suggested that the government should advice foreign shipping lines managers to give at least 20 days to traders for unloading imported goods rather than just seven days. He was of the view that these shipping companies would have no option but to accept this demand of the government. If shipping companies accept these demands, precious foreign exchange in the tune of millions of dollars can be saved, he added.
While answering a query, Mohammad Haroon said that transportation of containers from Karachi to upward country is also a big problem that should be addressed immediately. He said as Pakistan Railways hadn’t enough freight trains, importers have to rely on road service. He said that the transport fare of a container from Karachi up to Lahore of around 25 to 30 tons weight costs a trader worth Rs 125,000 which was two years ago around Rs 75,000 on the back of fuel charges, dollar-rupee parity and labour cost. He was of the view that this transportation problem can be solved amicably if the government takes steps to form a transport pool that could be used for the transportation of containers across the country, he said adding that though high-ups of Pakistan Railways have pledged that they would provide freight coaches and locomotives to traders on priority basis but it seems difficult that the promises would come into realisation in near future. However, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent visit to China and signing of MoUs in different sectors including rehabilitation of Pakistan Railways has elevated the hopes of resolving transportation problems in the country.
Mohammad Haroon showed his serious concern over the non-availability of uniformity on Customs duties on import items. Currently, traders across the country are paying different rates on their same imports consignment. With the uniformity in rates, he claimed, the government would get more revenue as loopholes in evaluating duties would decrease and importers of different cities could avoid of paying dissimilar Customs duties on same cargos.
While giving more detail of traders’ problems, Haroon further revealed that if a trader complains that Customs official concerned has not evaluated tax properly and there is a significant difference of evaluation in the eyes of grieved importers, the case is referred to court where traders have to submit Pay Orders as tax that assessed by ‘ignorant’ Customs official instead of submitting bank cheques. As fate of the case could hang in balance for a period of even one year so a large chunk of business capital remained stuck up in these courts. The pity is that no one in high-ups of judiciary or Customs Department realises that when lion’s share of working capital of a trader would become idle, how business activities would be flourished in the country? It is an open secret that circulating money is better than idle investment not only for traders but also for the government.
In this regard, Haroon suggested the government to once again allow traders to submit cheques rather than Pay Orders in court, he added.
While giving detail of his business, Haroon said that his entity M/s Nouman Impex, deals exclusively in the import of artificial leather and leather made products, various types of fabrics and complete range of shoes manufacturing material, polyester staple fiber, non-woven interlining, quilts, filter paper and tennis ball fibers in the form of raw material to supply them to small and medium range factories and units in the country.
While concluding, Haroon said that the government should take steps to make economy of the country sound by improving law and order situation, creating conducive atmosphere for local investors and business-friendly environment for industrialists, he said adding that the government should also take steps to make foolproof arrangements for the smooth flow of cargo consignment from Karachi to upward country and mitigate the menace of extortion (Bhata) in sensitive areas of Sindh so that business activities could be enhanced in the country.