Commerce minister assures exporters of addressing tax-related issues

By Staff Reporter | The News Mar 20, 2023

LAHORE: Federal Minister for Commerce Syed Naveed Qamar assured the exporters of Sialkot on Sunday their issues of tax refunds and others with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and other concerned quarters would be resolved.

In a meeting with the Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers Exporters Association (PRGMEA), he said, “I will convene a meeting of the FBR officials to resolve the pending Sales Tax refund issue on an urgent basis. The government is committed to providing a level-playing field and reducing the cost of doing business for export-oriented sectors, including textile whole chain.

“This shall help boost exports and reduce the current account deficit. It is time to promote value-added products and the government will provide incentives for this purpose as soon as economic conditions get better.”

The export sector of Sialkot presented demands of the apparel exporters, especially to resolve the issue of liquidity crunch faced by the SMEs due to blockage of sales tax refunds, which is creating crucial cash flow problem for garment exporters.

Syed Naveed Qamar was accompanied with Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and TDAP Director General Shahzad Ahmed Khan and other officials during his maiden visit to Sialkot on the request of PRGMEA. The meeting was largely attended by exporters from all industrial export-oriented sectors.

Syed Naveed Qamar appreciated the activity of Sialkot-based garment exporters and the overall PRGMEA participation in economic growth from Lahore and Karachi members.

The commerce minister mentioned that the Ministry of Commerce had formulated the Textiles and Apparel Policy 2020-2025, which will address matters including value addition, product diversification, skill development, productivity and ease of doing business. “We need to attract investment in the textile and apparel sector to enhance our manufacturing capacities.” He added SMEs across the world are engines of growth for any country. “In the global textile industry, Pakistan has less than 2% share which needs to be enhanced with practical steps.”

Naveed Qamar said that export-led economic growth is the only viable solution for achieving national prosperity. Acknowledging the role played by Sialkot-based exporters in earning foreign exchange for the country, he appreciated the revolutionary initiatives taken by the business community of the industrial city. He assured the PRGMEA of his all-out support to provide an enabling environment to increase the exports, stressing the members to keep close liaison with the commerce ministry for their input in policy making for the growth of value-added apparel exports.

International Apparel Federation (IAF) regional chief and ex-chairman of the PRGMEA Ijaz Khokhar presented the core demand of PRGMEA to establish the Sialkot Garment City like Lahore and Faisalabad, approval of which is already a part of textile and apparel policy 2020-25. He also requested him for the completion of Garment Technical Training Centre in Sialkot for which PRGMEA has done procurement of land. Now it was seeking for funds to build up the building with the funds of exporters’ own Export Development Funds (EDF).

The commerce minister showed his consent and Khawaja Asif also supported this demand for the cause of Sialkot industry’s growth because currently there was ample garment business available but due to shortage of skilled workers, it was not being materialized.

Ijaz Khokhar, on this occasion, committed with the minister if these two projects were completed, exports of Sialkot garments can be doubled to the level of $1 billion from the current figure of almost $500 million.

He stated that PRGMEA is the main value-added stakeholder of apparel sector in Pakistan with its presence in Karachi, Lahore and Sialkot. Apparel industry is playing pivotal role as it’s a major foreign revenue earner, largest employment generator and the highest tax payer segment of our economy.

Ijaz Khokhar requested the Ministry of Commerce to implement the Textile & Apparel Policy 2020-25, calling for conducting quarterly review to achieve the selected goals.

He said that currently Pakistan’s product basket had only few articles. “We can add new products but due to lack of new fabrics we are unable to produce, as we are dependent on imports. So, we need to form soft import policies for re-export, as the policies available are not friendly for SMEs, which are more than 90% of total exporters. At present, available EFS Scheme is not SME friendly.”

He said that the prevailing utility prices have made it difficult to compete in the region. “We do understand the government’s financial issue and IMF conditions due to which subsidies are withdrawn on utility. To sustain our exports, we suggest the restoration of DLTL/DDT which is the part of Textile & Apparel Policy 2020-25. This support will help us to sustain in the market.

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