Exporters criticise govt’s blue passport incentives

In Business
April 06, 2024

Critics of the new incentives, such as the issuance of blue passports, to top exporters argue that the government should prioritise providing facilities to the vibrant middle class and supporting the growth of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

They have expressed to The Express Tribune that the government’s focus seems to be on promoting an elite culture that already dominates the country, rather than addressing the needs of the long-neglected “Safaid Posh Tabka” (middle class).

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif recently announced the issuance of blue passports to 66 winners of tax and export excellence awards, who will also receive the ‘Pakistan Honour Card’ in recognition of their services.

“Unfortunately, there is virtually no middle class in Pakistan, and what the government needs to do is develop strategies that facilitate the creation of a vibrant middle class and promote the growth of SMEs, especially those facing challenges due to macroeconomic conditions.

Read Exporters underline need for innovation, diversity

Furthermore, top exporters and taxpayers should not require incentives from the government. If anything, these incentives should be directed towards smaller players or to ease the financial burdens on the common man. In my opinion, this is another attempt by the government to reinforce the elite capture that prevails in the country, without providing relief to those who need it the most,” said Akbar Allana, Director of Marketing & Quality at Alsons Group.

While appreciating the government’s initiatives, Hyderabad Chamber of Small Traders and Small Industry (HCSTSI), President, Muhammad Farooq Shaikhani highlighted the significant challenges faced by the country in tax collection and in integrating new businessmen and industrialists into the tax system. However, he expressed optimism that the government’s recent measures indicate a prioritisation of the business community’s role in boosting tax revenue.

He urged the government to conduct a comprehensive review of electricity, gas, and petrol prices in light of its efforts to promote industrial advancement within the nation. He stated that the continuous monthly price increases not only make key industries uncompetitive in the global market but also contribute to industries leaving Pakistan for other countries.

He also criticised the inefficiency and lack of accountability within the two gas distribution companies, which have resulted in a substantial circular debt in the gas sector, now amounting to Rs2,100 billion. This burden is unfairly borne by the public and business community through constant price hikes.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2024.

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