LAHORE - The LCCI Executive Committee, led by its President Mian Nauman Kabir, called on the Governor Punjab Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman and apprised him about the issues being faced by the business community.

Governor Punjab Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman, LCCI President Mian Nauman Kabir, Senior Vice President Mian Rehman Aziz Chan and Vice President Haris Ateeq also highlighted their respective issues.

Governor Punjab Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman said that the business community is backbone of country’s economy that plays pivotal role in progress and development of the country. The governor said that the business community provides business opportunities to millions of people. He agreed with the LCCI delegation that the political stability is important for the economic stability of the country.

The governor Punjab promised his full support in taking up the issues raised by the LCCI delegation with the relevant officials of both the federal government and the government of Punjab. He also expressed his views that consistency in economic policies is essential to resolve the prevailing economic issues. President LCCI Mian Nauman Kabir apprised the Governor Punjab that the commercial banks are exploiting the business community by demanding 10 to 15 rupees over and above the inter-bank dollar rate for releasing the import shipment documents. State Bank should ensure its full oversight on the commercial banks and ensure that Banks release the documents at the inter-bank rate. The president LCCI requested the Governor Punjab to take up this issue with the State Bank of Pakistan.

Mian Nauman Kabir said that according to the recently issued circular dated 5 July 2022 of the State Bank of Pakistan, a prior approval for the import of Machinery (Chapter 84 and 85) would be required from the State Bank of Pakistan and only after this approval; the banks would release the import shipment documents. The process of getting the said approval from the State Bank would take 10 to 15 days. As a result, the members of business community would have to face demurrage on the shipments. He requested the Governor Punjab to take up this issue with the State Bank of Pakistan. “There is a need for establishing Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Lahore as the two major industrial estates in Lahore (Sundar and Quaid-e-Azam Industrial Estates) have reached their full capacity and the cost of land for the business community in the existing Industrial Estates has reached exorbitantly high levels, the LCCI president added.

He said that in the federal budget speech, it was announced that a fixed tax regime for small retailers will be introduced whereby the fixed tax starting from Rs. 3,000 will be collected along with the electricity bills. However, the small retailers are being charged double the amount in the electricity bills as GST which is not refundable. The FBR has not clarified the criteria through which this GST in electricity bills has been imposed. The President LCCI requested the Governor Punjab to take up this issue with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

He said that the permanent Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan needs to be appointed on immediate basis to ensure stability in the currency market. Mian Nauman Kabir added that the Tier-1 retailers are being integrated with FBR through Point of Sale (POS) system. The Policy guidelines for POS integration are not clear. The President LCCI proposed that a clear policy be devised for POS integration without causing harassment of business community. For the purpose of Tier-1 retailers, the condition of area specification may be removed, one shop retailers be exempted from the POS integration and the consumption of electricity units may be used as a parameter instead of the cost of electricity. He said that the Federal Minister for Finance should visit LCCI to interact with the business community regarding the prevailing economic issues.

LCCI delegation meets Punjab governor

The LCCI president said that the WASA water tariff for Lahore i.e. Rs.100,000 per cusec per month, is considerably higher as compared to other cities of Punjab like Faisalabad where the water tariff is around Rs. 19,320 per cusec per month for general industry and Rs. 13,000 for textile processing industry. This difference in water tariff is adversely impacting the export competitiveness of the industries based in Lahore. The industries in Lahore are consuming water at a depth of 200 feet, which is essentially non-drinkable and only fit for industrial use. The President LCCI requested the Governor Punjab to take up the matter with the relevant officials of the Government of Punjab to reduce the water tariff for Lahore. The president LCCI apprised the Governor Punjab about the long standing issue of high rate of conversion fee (20% of DC value) for land use charged by LDA for existing units.

This is an impediment to industrialization in the province and should be abolished. He requested the Governor Punjab to play a role in resolving this issue.

President LCCI informed the governor Punjab that the imposition of Punjab Infrastructure Development Cess (PIDC) at the rate of 0.9% on Dry Ports in Punjab has prompted many businesses based in Lahore and other parts of Punjab to get their consignments cleared from Karachi. The collection of this Cess was merely Rs. 5 billion in 2021-22. He further informed that this Cess has resulted in tremendous loss of business volume at Dry Ports in Punjab, shifting of tax revenues from Dry Ports in Punjab to Karachi and hampered the businesses of clearing agents and transportation companies that provide sizeable employment. LCCI demands the removal of this Cess to ease out the business community and revive economic activities at the Dry Port. He requested the Governor Punjab to play a role in resolving this issue.

He said advocated that LCCI should be given fair representation in District Administration Committees and all the provincial government Boards related to industry and businesses.

LCCI Senior Vice President Mian Rehman Aziz Chan highlighted the urgent need for installation of water hydrants in and around the major markets of Lahore to effectively cope with adverse fire incidents. He requested the support of Governor Punjab in this matter.

LCCI Vice President Haris Ateeq said that the policy of closing the retail outlets including the bakeries at 9 pm, which is only being implemented in Punjab, has proved to be counter-productive and needs to be reviewed immediately. It has not resulted in conservation of energy and has rather dented the sales of businesses, causing tax revenue losses for the government.

The LCCI office-bearers said that the dearth of parking plazas is a long-standing problem of Lahore. There is an urgent need to establish parking plazas in leading commercial markets, especially Hall Road and Badami Bagh etc. Tahir Manzoor Chaudhry, Abdul Wadood Alvi, Malik Riaz Iqbal, Mubasher Naseer Butt, Mian Maqbool Siddique, Saleem Asghar Bhatti, Muhammad Ali Afzal, Mian Jabbar Khalid, Rizwan Haider, Muhammad Riaz ul Hassan, Tariq  Mehboob, Muhammad Yousaf Shah, Chaudhry Wajid Ali, Malik Muhammad Nadeem and Muhammad Usman were present in the meeting.