ISLAMABAD: Successive governments overcrowded and overburdened the Commerce and Textile Ministry through hiring of their ‘favourites’ without taking its capacity and planning into account which adversely affected the ministry’s performance.
National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce and Textile Chairman MNA Siraj Muhammad Khan made these remarks during an exclusive chat with Customs Today. Siraj said that the committee held its meeting which was, though, an introductory one, the participants discussed the performance of the previous government at length. “I am confident that the Commerce Ministry under the leadership of Khurram Dastgir will take tangible initiatives which will be fruitful for both the country as well as the businessmen,” he expressed.
He pointed out that the committee was carefully observing working of the ministry and would strive to ensure adherence to rules and regulations. “Now the government has to spend huge funds on various approaches to offset the past damage and build the ministry’s capacity,” MNA Siraj Khan added.
The NA standing committee chief claimed that the committee was sparing no effort to get the ministry deal with multifarious challenges as textile and commerce was the backbone of national economy. “Look it is a hard fact that Pakistan’s economy is dependent on the commerce and textile and, we being members of this important committee, are working hard to strengthen the ministry to ultimately strengthen the economy,” he emphasised.
MNA Siraj Khan said that the issue of Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC), a prestigious research organisation based in Karachi, was not yet resolved the authorities concerned. The land where the PCCC was housed for more than 50 years was allocated for the US Embassy in 2005 while the KPT committed to providing Rs 589 million as compensation to PCCC. But later, KPT denied any commitment with PCCC due to which the research work on cotton is being hampered.
PCCC has not been provided any land till now and the factual position is that PCCC moved to a rented house that was far smaller than its needs and absolutely insufficient to accommodate PCCC offices and its institutes. PCCC moved to an even smaller location in September 2011. He said although Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had directed the KPT in 2005 but nothing was done in this regard. There is a dire need to facilitate all those departments related to commerce and textile, he stressed.
Replying to a question, Siraj Khan argued that the time period for GSP Plus did not matter and what was needed was only to focus on the quality of export products. The committee had suggested spreading more awareness among exporters on GSP Plus by conducting seminars and other campaigns to build the capacity. There were a variety of products which could be exported including the value-added goods which were on the top of the export list to fetch precious foreign exchange for the country.
“By the way, it will not be wrong if I say that Pakistan has all kinds of machinery like any European country for making quality cotton and textile products,” MNA Siraj opined, adding, “Pakistani manufacturers must maintain quality of products and the government should always keep national interest first when it comes to free trade issue with other countries”.
He also expressed his optimism about his approach that the bureaucracy would stand by the parliamentarians and extend full support in their endeavours to revamp the ministry in the greater national interest. “Mind that although I do not belong to Khurram Dastgir’s party, I admit the Commerce Minister is performing well and leading the ministry in the right direction. I am hopeful things will go better with the passage of time,” MNA Siraj Khan declared. He claimed that he was focusing on reducing expenses and directing the working of the committee in a constructive way.
To a question regarding non-payment of taxes by Parliamentarians, MNA Siraj Khan suggested to the tax authorities, instead of wasting time on members of the National Assembly who were not more than five hundred, to focus energies on bringing non-registered factories, industries and rich class into the tax net.
“There are more revenue-generating sectors in the country and the tax authorities should invest energies in the most potential but neglected sectors that can result in windfall tax revenue besides taxing those having accumulated wealth in foreign countries,” he explained and added that the government should evolve comprehensive strategy on war-footings to increase and maintain foreign reserves.
“The standing committee will keep a check on the performance of the ministry’s performance and will acknowledge them whenever and wherever it requires,” MNA Siraj declared, adding that they would always pinpoint wrongdoing and make positive criticism for creating healthy environment.