Hard times

Mansoor Ahmad
Saturday, May 21, 2022

LAHORE: Time is not on Pakistan’s side, and this is known to both the ruling coalition, the lone opposition party, and the concerned circles; still, none seem to realise the urgency of the situation. What are they waiting for?

We must take urgent and fast decisions that our policymakers have been avoiding since long. The decision to ban import of luxury items is a step in the right direction.

It is a bold decision but would only partly dent the insurmountable difficulties that our economy faces. Moreover, nothing is clear how this decision would be implemented and what would be the duration of this ban.

This must be adhered to for five years after which the planners should seek approval of the parliament after a debate lasting seven days. Members from opposition and the ruling party should put their input in addresses not lasting more than 10 minutes.

This may look harsh, but good decisions in Pakistan become nonstarters after initial hullabaloo. Vested interests step in and put forward their arguments to withdraw the decision or in failing to convince the planners ask for some time before implementing it. They invariably get some time and they in the meantime manipulate in such a way that the relaxation is extended further and ultimately things come back to their previous routine.

We still remember that soon after coming to power the PTI government took some prudent decisions, all of which were either withdrawn or gradually diluted. Take for instance the decision of that government to regulate the importers of fast-moving consumer goods.

The importers were asked to make sure that the instructions on labels of all fast-moving goods were written in Urdu. It was also decreed that the expiry date on all edibles should be at least six months. It was also required that edible products like chocolates should be shipped by the actual manufacturers. This was done to prevent import of assorted sweets and chocolates of various brands purchased in stock lots (nearing expiry date). The FMCG companies strongly opposed the move.

Then they requested the government to at least allow clearance of goods for which letters of credits have already been established. After initial resistance, the then planners agreed to this demand.

Three years down the lane the decision was forgotten and past practices are flourishing. If some products were imported that could cause health issues then there was no need for any relaxation.

This another case of supplying goods above Rs50,000 in which the retailer was bound to take a signed CNIC copy of the buyer. After strong protest from traders, the rule was waived for six months, and then another six months.

After that the amount on which a signed copy of CNIC of the buyer was needed was enhanced to Rs100,000. Three years down the lane, the rule is forgotten.

Ambiguity exists in current ban on luxury imports particularly in case of luxury cars. The duration of the ban is not mentioned with clarity.

Then the overseas Pakistanis are allowed to import even luxury cars. This makes no sense. How many overseas Pakistanis could afford to drive a luxury car in Pakistan? A probe will tell us hardly one percent could afford it but this facility is open for all.

Anyone who remits less amount in Pakistan than the cost of the luxury vehicle should not be provided this facility. Otherwise, the imports would continue to grow under the garb of overseas Pakistanis.