Senate Standing Committee on Commerce discussed inflicting ban on certain imported items

Chairman Committee sought a detailed briefing from the Ministry of Commerce in the next meeting regarding regulatory duty on imported goods and the structure and mechanism of the Export Development Fund (EDF)

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Islamabad: A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce was held here at Parliament House under the Chairmanship of Senator Zeeahan Khanzada. Senators Fida Muhammad, Saleem Mandviwala, Danesh Kumar, Muhammad Qasim, and Mohammad Abdul Qadir attended the meeting. Secretary Commerce and other high officials from the Ministry, Chairman TDAP, and officials from NTC also participated in the meeting.

The matter related to inflicting a ban on certain imported items was taken up in the committee. A brief discussion on the subject sailed throughout the meeting. As per the documents provided by the Ministry, a total of 33 items have been banned from being imported. Secretary Commerce informed that a decision to disallow certain items was taken in consultation with the Ministry of Finance and Commerce.  To a question asked by Senator Saleem Mandviwala, Secretary Commerce said that the WTO has been informed about the initiative. The Secretary of Commerce added that we have been told that this initiative can save Rs. 500 million annually. In few days, the situation will become clearer. The move related to banning items from being imported will be reviewed after two months, with the intent of no permanent ban.

The Secretary Commerce underlined those changes to the list of banned items can also be made if the situation improves, adding that being Secretary of Commerce, I may have differing views on the said list of restricted items. The Ministry also looked for other options instead i.e increasing duty on imported items, but yet there was no chance of saving dollars, he observed. Items imported through barter and imports through land routes have been exempted from the ban. Imports of goods from Afghanistan are also not restricted. He said that there are many items on this list which are available locally. A helpline, in this regard, has also been set up which helps in resolving any problems faced by the complainant. He hoped that the situation might improve when we review the situation after two months. Presenting his position, the Chairman of the committee remarked that a ban on imported goods is not the solution to the problem, it will intensify the trend of smuggling items. After a lengthy discussion on the subject, the Chairman Committee called for a detailed briefing regarding regulatory duty and the Export Development Fund in the next meeting. The Ministry of Commerce briefed the Committee on budgetary proposals related to Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for the FY-2022-2023. The officials informed the committee about its ongoing scheme I.e Peshawar Expo Centre and Quetta Expo Centre and other PSDP projects of the Ministry for FY-2022-2023. The officials informed that the project of the Peshawar expo centre was supposed to be completed in 2017, but started in the mid of 2017 ballooning the cost of the project. RS. 2.5 billion was allocated for the project of which 100 million have not been released yet and the same goes for the Quetta expo centre. Rs. 800 million was allocated of which 400 million was released. For one operationalisation, the proposal of RS. 2 billion for the Peshawar expo centre and RS. 400 million for Quetta expo centres is on the card. After detailed deliberation, the Committee seconded the budgetary proposal tabled by the ministry. Committee members were of the view that failure to complete projects in due time swells the cost of the project, adding that steps need to be taken so projects get completed on time with no delay and with minimal cost. The Commerce Secretary underscored that the devaluation of the rupee, increase in prices of petroleum products, disparity reduction allowance, increase in annual salaries of employees and increase in hiring for the accommodation of employees are the reasons for the 1.75 per cent increase in the budget of the Ministry. The Committee also debated the mechanism and structure of the Export Development Fund ( EDF). The Secretary Committee told the Committee that a proposal regarding EDF has been push forwarded to the Finance Ministry and waiting for their insight. The Chairman of the Committee said that the proposal regarding the Export Development Fund which has been sent to the Ministry of Finance should also be presented to the committee so we can also have a look and after which the committee will give his recommendations if needed. The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Zeeahan Khanzada sought a briefing on EDF from the Ministry in the upcoming meeting of the committee.

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