Govt should not increase customs duties: Former FBR chairman

FAIZA ISRAR

 ISLAMABAD: Former chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Dr Ather Maqsood said that in order to avoid further noncompliance, the government should not increase the customs duty.  While talking to Customs Today, he said that there is a chance the government would go for increase in the tariffs for the customs items in the Budget 2013-14 as the incumbent governments always keep in mind the short term goals.

 He said to bring sustainability and achieving long term goals, the government should stick to the existing structure of customs duty and should be focused more on its implementation and full compliance.  He feared that any increase in tariffs would result in low investment in the market. He said that Pakistan could not impose regularity duty on Customs under WTO agreement because this practice was condemned by most of the countries under WTO agreement.

 Dr Ather elaborated that Pakistan did not sign the agreement even then there was no need to levy the regulatory duty as the government already was getting huge revenues through Customs Department by imposing fair percentage up to 20 percent on import goods.  He said customs duty on raw material resulted in low production.

 Dr Ather said in the past the highest customs tariff was 300 percent which was  reduced gradually.  “There is still a need of ‘tariff rationalisation’ which indicates more taxes on imports and exports of finished goods. Revenue collection on imports is no more a source of fund collection for the last 20 years in Pakistan and it is seen that high tariff rates result in damaging exports and are a barrier in promoting quality products in Pakistan.  The reduction of taxes on imports could be an indirect source of promoting exports,” the former FBR chairman added.

 He said the clearance system in Pakistan was weak and flawed. He stressed on the need of improving the functioning of departments concerned to eliminate these flaws.  He said tax policy measures should be consistent envisaging long term goals and even short term policies should not be deviated from the key policies.

Pakistan's money in Swiss banks higher than India

CUSTOMS TODAY REPORT

ZURICH: When it comes to money in Swiss banks, Pakistan has a slight edge over India with total funds amounting to 1,441 million Swiss francs (about Rs 9,200 crore) held there by Pakistani individuals and entities.  However, this was the lowest level for such funds ever since Switzerland’s central bank began compiling this data in 2002 and was less than half of the record high amount of over 3 billion Swiss francs recorded in 2005.

The previous record low of 1.95 billion Swiss francs was seen in the year 2010. In their local currency, the total funds held by individuals and entities from Pakistan in Swiss banks stood at over 15,000 crore Pakistani rupees as on December 31, 2012. This marked a decline of nearly 32 per cent from 2,119 million Swiss francs (about Rs 23,000 crore Pakistani rupees) at the end of 2011, as per the latest annual report of Switzerland’s central bank on banks operating in the country.

The issue of alleged stashing of black money in Swiss banks has been a matter of intense debate in Pakistan, as there have been reports of some top former government leaders having kept their money in banks in the European country due to their hugely popular ‘safe-haven’ status. However, a higher amount than Indian entities assumes significance because Pakistan is a much smaller country in terms of population and area. Still, the quantum of money held by Swiss banks for their Pakistani clients was about 1.5 per cent higher than the equivalent figure for Indians at 1,421 million Swiss francs (about Rs 9,100 crore) at the end of 2012, the latest data compiled by Swiss National Bank (SNB) shows.

 

Interest-free Islamic banking a fraud: experts

 CUSTOMS TODAY REPORT

 KARACHI: Existing so-called interest-free Islamic banking system prevailing in Pakistan is fraud and mockery on the name of Islam as well as worst-exploitive as compared to interest-based banking system existing in modern world.

These views were expressed by noted banking experts during a one-day workshop on the topic of “Law & Practice of Banking in Pakistan” jointly organized by “Law Society —Pakistan” (LSP) and “Corporate & Banking Lawyers Association” (CBLA). They said that modern world, where interest based banking is in operation, the average rate of interest charged is 6% per annum, while in Pakistan the banks are charging 20% per annum average on finances disbursed on the name of non-interest Islamic banking.

Noted banking lawyer and Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan Saalim Salam Ansari said that in his lecture that in The depositors are getting only 5% profit p.a on their deposits, while the rate of inflation or decrease in the rupee value is more than 5% per annum, which shows that depositors are getting a negative income. Pakistan is the second country in the globe after Columbia, where the spread (difference between deposit’s rate and lending rate) is high. While replying during questions, answers session, Advocate Ansari said that the suo-moto powers given to the Financial Institutions / Banks, under section 15 of the Financial Institutions (Recovery of Finances) Ordinance, 2001 to auction the mortgage properties after sending / serving (3) three notices are violative, inconsistent and contradictory to the Articles 2-A, 8, 10-A, 23, 24 and 25 of the Constitution, 1973 as without determination of liability and judicial verdict passed by any Court of Law, the mortgage property cannot be auctioned, as it’s violates the “right to fair trial” and “protection towards property” guaranteed in the Constitution, 1973.

The Banking Courts especially in Karachi, which are vacant, Presiding Officers / Judges be appointed to expedite the recovery cases. Advocate Ansari suggested. Former Governor of Sindh, Barrister Kamal Azfar, Senior Advocate of Supreme Court of Pakistan, while delivering presidential speech said that there is a great need of conducting of such workshops for the training and awareness of Lawyers, bankers, students and concerned quarters. Advocate Saalim Salam Ansari said that the Section 489-F of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 and Section 20, Sub-sections (4), (5), and (6) of the Financial Institutions (Recovery of Finances) Ordinance, 2001, which constitute criminal offence(s) pertaining to dishonored cheques are ambiguous and requires amendments / modifications.

 

Dubai Customs organises workshops for govt departments

CUSTOMS TODAY REPORT

 DUBAI: Dubai Customs in collaboration with Dubai Government Excellence Programme (DGEP) Secretariat General organized two introductory workshops on the categories of both electronically and financially distinguished Government Departments as part of DGEP categories and for which the nomination submission will be made in January 2014.

Mr. Juma Al Gaith, Executive Director of Customs Development Division at Dubai Customs began with saying that “ we are delighted to welcome DGEP Secretariat General advisors to Dubai Customs and appreciate their cooperation in delivering two workshops on the categories of both electronically and financially distinguished government departments”.

“After having won the first place under the category of the distinguished technological/technical project for two consecutive years that is in 2011 for the Business To Government Channel (B2G) and in 2012 for Risk Engine project, we are making every effort to progress and maintain top places within such category and other categories as well,” said Al Gaith. “Dubai Customs is keen at all times to improve its service delivery standards for facilitating customs business procedures in such a way that will achieve customers’` satisfaction and ensure a value-added to them,” he added. The workshops were facilitated by Dr. Ziad Al Kahlout, the Quality and Excellence Advisor and Mr. Osama Hammad, Senior Advisor from DGEP Secretariat General. While opening the workshops, Dr. Al Kahlout spoke about DGEP and the most important developments and categories that have been created within DGEP. Dr. Al Kahlout then delivered a working paper on the financially distinguished government department reviewing the most important submission requirements for such category and its criteria, which refers to any government department or administration found to be distinguished in financial resources management, observes rationalization of expenses and committed to the budget and generation of revenue.

Girl waived through customs on fake passport

CUSTOMS TODAY REPORT

 ANTALYA: A nine-year-old girl was waived through Turkish customs with a fake passport – identifying her as a Unicorn. Emily Harris’s parents were stunned when officials stamped the ID their daughter had made especially for her toy unicorn Lily.

The mix-up happened after mum Nicky accidentally handed over the wrong passport at a control stand in Antalya. But border staff failed to realise the “ID” – complete with gold teddy bears on the front – was not real and granted the unicorn access to the country.

Nicky, 43, from Cwmbran, South Wales, said: “I didn’t realise until I was putting the passports away. There was a moment of panic when I thought someone would come chasing after us, but nothing. The passport doesn’t even look real — it’s got gold teddy bears on the front and was a completely different size from mine and my husband, Allen’s. The man even asked Emily how old she was, and she told him nine, before he stamped it.”

It was only when they got outside that Nicky realised that instead of handing in Emily’s passport, she had shown her daughter’s passport for the unicorn.  She said: “The picture ID wasn’t even of Emily, it was of a pink unicorn. And to make it worse, the unicorn wasn’t even on holiday with us. We saw the funny side, and laughed at the fact that the officer had even stamped the passport. But at the same time, it’s a worry to any parent, how easy it would be to smuggle a child through customs and into another country.”

FBR bans visitors from its premises

 SM HAIDER

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has banned entry of visitors into premises of Board’s headquarters to ensure secrecy of tax proposals. A circular to this effect was issued by FBR on Thursday.

According to circular issued by the FBR, due to heavy engagements of Chairman and Members of the FBR, entry of visitors in Board’s premises is being restricted with immediate effect. The FBR has instructed all its officers and staff to strictly comply with the rules and laid down procedures. Only visitors of Chairman and Members shall be allowed entry subject to approval of the concerned officers. In case a visitor has prior appointment, the concerned private secretary will intimate the receptionist to this effect well before time.

The FBR’s Chiefs requiring entry of any visitor in the FBR premises may inform the private secretary of their members so that the personal staff of the member intimates the receptionist well before time for arranging entry.

UK delegation calls on FBR Chairman

 SM HAIDER

 ISLAMABAD: Member of the UK’s House of Lords, Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham called on Chairman FBR Ansar Javed at the FBR House here today. Riffat Shaheen Qazi, official spokesperson, and Member FBR was also present in the meeting.

During the meeting Chairman FBR stressed the need to enhance collaboration between the revenue and customs departments of both the countries so as to better understand the issues and to benefit from bilateral expertise in specific areas. FBR extended willingness to provide full support for any such proposal of collaboration and exchange of expertise between the two countries.  Lord Nazir Ahmed committed to take up this proposal with the concerned quarters in the UK and hoped that positive developments in this regard would be achieved.