ACT Alliance holds dialogue to combat illicit trade

MARDAN    -   The ACT Alliance Pakistan convened a significant civil society and media dialogue in Mardan on Sunday to address the critical issue of illicit trade and its detrimental impact on the local, provincial, and national economies.

The event brought together representatives from various sectors, including business leaders, media professionals and civil society organizations, to discuss the pressing economic challenges of illicit trade, tax evasion, smuggling and counterfeiting.

The illicit trade in Pakistan has reached alarming levels, with an estimated $68 billion in illicit activities occurring annually. Tax evasion accounts for over $21 billion, while smuggling exceeds $3 billion.

Additionally, nearly 80 percent of products, particularly in town centers and rural areas, are counterfeited. These figures underscore the urgent need for collective action to address these pervasive issues. This emphasis on the urgency of the issue should make the audience feel concerned and aware of the immediate need for action.

Speaking at the event, Ihsan Bacha, President of the Traders Association, Mardan, lauded the ACT Alliance’s efforts in raising awareness and fostering collaboration to combat illicit trade.

“The ACT Alliance’s initiative to reach out to local communities and raise awareness about illicit trade is commendable. The traders’ community in Mardan recognizes the challenges posed by illicit trade and is committed to cooperating to eradicate this menace,” said Bacha.

The dialogue also shed light on sector-specific tax evasion figures, underscoring the magnitude of the problem. The petroleum sector faces tax evasion amounting to Rs996 billion, the real estate sector Rs500 billion, and the tobacco sector Rs310 billion annually. Despite these staggering figures, the government has disproportionately focused on extracting unjust taxes from the tobacco sector, which already pays heavy taxes.

At the same time, a large majority of local companies evade taxes. Local civil society leaders expressed serious concerns about this imbalance. They stressed the need for the government to take decisive action against tax evaders and those involved in illicit trading in tobacco products.

Mubashir Akram, the National Convener of ACT Alliance, delivered a compelling presentation to the participants, emphasizing the potential benefits of addressing the illicit economy.

“If Pakistan manages to recover even 25% of the losses incurred due to the illicit economy, it will result in billions of dollars being injected into national and local development projects, directly benefiting communities in Mardan as well,” Akram stated.

This inspiring vision of a more prosperous and equitable Pakistan should motivate the audience to support the ACT Alliance’s efforts and promote its messaging to create a broader impact.

The event highlighted the critical need for a multi-faceted approach to combat illicit trade. The ACT Alliance employs various strategies, including advocating for more robust regulatory frameworks, launching public awareness campaigns, and fostering international cooperation to address smuggling and counterfeiting. By aligning with global best practices and leveraging local expertise, the ACT Alliance aims to create a sustainable and impactful movement against activities that undermine Pakistan’s economy.

Participants in the dialogue, representing diverse sectors and interests, expressed their unwavering commitment to working collaboratively. They acknowledged that tackling the complex challenges of illicit trade and tax evasion requires a united effort from all stakeholders, including businesses, civil society organizations, media, and governmental bodies. This unity of purpose instills hope and reassurance in the collective effort to combat illicit trade.

The dialogue in Mardan is part of a series of events organized by the ACT Alliance across various cities to raise awareness and foster collaboration in the fight against illicit trade. The Alliance aims to build a robust network of stakeholders to create a transparent and fair economic environment in Pakistan.

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