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Charges of freight, shipping companies must be regulated: KCCI President

Charges of freight, shipping companies must be regulated: KCCI President

KARACHI: Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) President Aamir Abdullah Zaki has urged the government to take on board the business community and other stakeholders to evolve a consensus for tax reforms and collection.

“Look, the business community, being a key stakeholder, wants to sit down and discuss tax reforms with the government to develop a foolproof tax collection strategy as it is a common cause and any unilateral decision in this regard will not last long.”

KCCI President Aamir Abdullah Zaki gave voice to his thoughts during an exclusive interview with Customs Today in his chamber. Abdullah Zaki stressed the need for long-term industrial policy. “The incumbent government should introduce an effective industrial policy which is need of the hour to steer the country out of economic quagmire,” he underlined.

He averred that unilateral decisions by the government without taking the business community into confidence would not serve any purpose and would only complicate the economic equation further. He asserted that the situation necessitated a well thought-out economic policy. “You see resources in industrial sector have dried up while inadequate infrastructure coupled with crippling electricity outages has dealt a blow to the sector.” He regretted that the shortage of electricity and absence of water supply and sewerage system are the factors which had ruined the industrial sector, especially in Karachi.

Abdullah Zaki revealed that the KCCI budget committee has started work on preparing and drafting proposals for the upcoming budget for the fiscal year 2014-15. He was of the view that the government should contact the business community and other stakeholders at least two months prior to the new budget to facilitate inclusion of their proposals in the draft budget.

“It will be a morale booster if the authorities concerned invite the business community for budget proposals as ultimately it will turn out to be an additional support for the government to finalize the budget for the year 2014-15, he elaborated.

The KCCI chief informed that the chamber was organising a pre-budget seminar scheduled to be held on February 4 and chambers from across the country including the tribal areas and interior Sindh would be invited to come to and voice their suggestions and recommendations for budget proposals, adding that the KCCI on the behalf of all chambers of the country would present the final budget proposals draft to the Finance Ministry.

Commenting on Customs issues, Aamir Zaki claimed that structure of the Customs duty is good enough but the capacity of the Customs officials is not up to the standards to properly manage it. He alleged that the Directorate of Customs Valuation determined the values of commodities without consulting and taking the importers and business community into confidence.

The KCCI president charged that the authorities of Valuation Department with the connivance of a specific group of Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) had determined the Customs values of commodities to facilitate it. He urged the FBR high-ups to take notice of the unjustified valuation rulings issued by the Directorate of Customs Valuation and hold the authorities concerned accountable in this regard.

About WeBOC, Aamir Zaki strongly criticized the group formation in the computerised system by the Customs authorities, saying that the step would open doors for corruption in FBR. Elaborating the dilemma, the KCCI president argued that the importers did not know who had handled it in the past while filing their Goods Declaration (GDs) and making entries but now after the formation of groups, the GDs would go into the hands of specific Customs officials.

Replying to a question, he praised the role of Chief Collector-Appraisement (South) Nasir Masroor Ahmed, saying that he always took keen interest in resolving issues of the business community. Aamir Zaki said that the officials of Pakistan Customs should realize their responsibility and ensure timely clearance of the consignments without delay in examination and assessment.

Criticising the performance of freight forwarders and shipping companies, the KCCI president lamented that they were fleecing the business community and causing huge losses to the national economy by charging hefty freight, demurrage and detention charges. “The government should establish a regulatory body to fix the charges of freight forwarders and shipping companies”, KCCI president suggested.

Terming the GSP plus status a great achievement, Aamir Zaki said that the business community had geared up for getting a target of $2 billion, adding that the government should ensure provision of basic facilities and better environment to the business community to reap maximum benefits of the GSP plus status.

To another query, he claimed that the federal government was not interested in improving the law and order situation in the country, particularly in Karachi. “The extortion cases have increased from 10 to 15 percent over the past two weeks despite the fact that a targeted operation is being conducted in the city. Aamir Zaki regretted that the businessmen were now getting calls from the extortionists from international numbers, adding that the government must settle the issue once and for all.

The KCCI president opined that lack of resources and political influence had been undermining performance of the Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), causing irreparable loss to the city. He made a vehement demand, saying that the city should be handed over to Pakistan Army for lasting peace and economic growth.

Message for Customs Today:

Customs Today, being a weekly newspaper, is doing a wonderful job in highlighting the issues of importers, Customs agents and business community. It also covers FBR, Customs, shipping and other related sectors which definitely leave a far-reaching impact on improving their performance. I extended my best wishes to the entire team of Customs Today in their professional endeavours.