SYED MOHAMMAD TAHIR
LAHORE: Awarding Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India would not only provide cheap items to end consumers but Pakistan would also get a huge market of 1.27 billion population for exports. Unless government does not take steps to build mega hydel projects like Kalabagh Dam, the country would not progress leaps and bounds.
These views were expressed by former LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh at his office while giving an exclusive interview to Customs Today team recently.
Irfan Qaiser said that there is no need to fear in awarding MFN status to India because ultimately it would be proved beneficial for Pakistan. There are only few sectors including pharmaceutical and automobile which are opposing to award MFN status to India otherwise, the fact is that we would capture a fast progressing economy of the world having over 1.27 billion population after signing preferential agreements.
Irfan Qaiser said that we have a very good experience of trade with China. China has become world’s second largest economy with a population of above 1.4 billion. Though, the balance of trade is in China’s favour, yet reality is that we got a huge market for our exports in the shape of China. It is basically our imperfection that we could not export to China according to our potential. However, it is a good omen that China has promised to help Pakistan in building economic corridor between Gwadar and Kashghar, he said, adding that with the establishment of this economic corridor, China would set up industrial zones in Pakistani territory keeping in mind the local cheap labour.
Irfan Qaiser further said that similarly Pakistanis are consuming expensive Indian items as these are being shipped through Mumbai to Dubai and then from Dubai to Karachi. The transportation expenses of these smuggled items increase up to 40 per cent because of extraordinary distance. If we could award MFN status to India, the end consumers in Pakistan would get these items at the cheapest rates as goods could be transported from New Delhi to Lahore consuming just eight hours, he claimed.
He said that majority of the businessmen in Pakistan do not have fear in their minds while trading with India. He said he is also importing raw material for his chemical factory from India and exporting value-added DOP production to India which is being used in making artificial leather. He claimed that though India has as many as 70 plants producing DOP but Indians are keen to purchase my whole production of DOP. Likewise, other traders are also doing businesses with Indians and are fetching valuable foreign exchange for the country, he added.
While criticising the incumbent government, Irfan Qaisar said that enhancing General Sales Tax (GST) from 16 percent to 17 percent is a bad decision as it has opened a floodgate of inflation in the country. The indirect taxes are being eliminated in the world whilst the ratios of indirect taxes have been increased in our country. While quoting an example, he said that Pakistanis are paying over 70 percent indirect taxes and 30 percent direct taxes while 70 percent direct taxes and 30 percent indirect taxes are imposed in most of the countries in the world, he claimed.
Irfan Qaisar further revealed that last year he had organised OIC ambassadors’ summit at Bhurban where all participating countries pledged to set up a trade secretariat that would help promote trade activities among OIC’s countries that are currently at their lowest ebb of 0.5 percent. He said that after his stepping down from the LCCI as President, the movement’s pace has decreased but still he is optimistic in establishing a mechanism for full-fledged trade among Muslim countries. He further revealed that as many as 28 ambassadors of Muslim world participated in the summit and showed their eagerness in establishing trade secretariat of Muslim countries.
While replying to a question, Irfan Qaiser Sheikh said that if we carefully estimate losses incurred by war on terror and energy crisis, the outcome would stun everyone. He said that regional countries are progressing at the rate of 8 to 9 percent of GDP but Pakistan is struggling hard to achieve 4 percent of GPD, he added.
Irfan Qaiser claimed that the calculation further revealed that from last 15 years, Pakistan has lagged behind almost 200 years as compared to regional countries. He said that the successive governments failed to anticipate country’s energy requirements and never tried to set up hydel power plants to generate even a single unit. Vested interested have created unfavourable circumstances among all provinces that they have put aside country’s interests and preferred to have their own interest. They did not ponder to build new mega dams to generate not only electricity but also irrigate barren lands of the country. He was of the view that building mega projects like Kalabagh and Bhasha Dams are inevitable for the rapid progress of the country. If incumbent government, he said, wanted to see country progressing like other regional countries, these mega dams have to be built on war footing, he added. He further said that Pakistan is losing over $4 billion annually because of energy crisis, adding that Pakistan is bearing colossal losses because of war on terror.
Irfan Qaiser suggested the government to build mega hydel power plants along with small and medium run-of-the-river hydel plants to generate cheap and environment-friendly electricity and move the economic wheel of the country smoothly so that Pakistan could be put on track of progress and prosperity soon, he concluded.