LAHORE, Oct 29 (APP): Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar on Thursday announced Rs 5 billion special relief package for the affectees of Hafeez Center inferno.

The announcement was made by the Chief Minister at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). The Chief Minister spent over one hour at LCCI and listened to the affectees patiently.

Punjab Information Minister Fiaz-ul-Hassan Chohan, Finance Minister Punjab Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht, President LCCI Mian Tariq Misbah, Senior Vice President Nasir Hameed Khan, Vice President Tahir Manzoor Chaudhry, President Bank of Punjab Zafar Masood, President SAARC Chamber of Commerce Iftikhar Ali Malik, Former Presidents Almas Hyder, Muhammad Ali Mian, Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, Former Senior Vice President Ali Hussam Asghar were also present on the occasion.

The Chief Minister said the Bank of Punjab (BOP) would provide soft loans to the fire victims and for that purpose a special desk of BOP had been established very near to the Hafeez Center.

The BoP would finance at affordable prices under Kamyab Jawan & Punjab Rozgar Scheme and BOP Apni Dokan, adding it would also provide flexible financial solutions to cater renovation of existing shop / office premises, purchase of new shop / office premises, purchase of inventory / stocks to restart the business activities.

The Chief Minister said the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had announced the refunds of the Hafeez Center fire victims on priority basis.

Sardar Usman Buzdar said the BOP had also offered 135 shops (owned by bank) available at IT Tower Lahore at affordable terms.

The Chief Minister said to further the business activity in Punjab, the government had planned to establish 13 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Punjab, The work had commenced on SEZs in Faislabad and Lahore, adding the SEZ in Bahawlpur and Muzafargarh would be announced soon.

He said the PTI government had always supported the business community. The government had given Rs. 57 billion tax relief to the business community due to COVID -19, adding that the government had reduced the rate of provincial sales tax on thirteen sectors mostly affected by the COVID-19.

Earlier, the LCCI President Mian Tariq Misbah especially thanked the Chief Minister for accepting LCCI’s demands for a relief package to Hafeez Center affectees.

Mian Tariq Misbah said the business community had some long-standing issues which required the immediate attention of the government.

He said, “We fully support the measures to strengthen the Price Control mechanism but there should not be any injustice to anyone,” adding, there should be fair representation of LCCI in District Administration Committees for timely resolution of administration related issues.

The LCCI president said to resolve the issues in Development of Lahore, a Joint High Powered Committee should be constituted which may include four representatives of private sector nominated by LCCI in addition to the representatives of relevant government departments.

He again emphasized on the dire need of new parking plazas in Lahore due to growing needs of the city, adding, “We are ready to work with government of Punjab in this regard.”

Mian Tariq Misbah said encroachments had affected the commercial areas of Lahore. These areas should be made free of encroachments as it was in some way adding to the cost of doing business.

The LCCI President said the Safe City surveillance should be extended for all the markets of Lahore along with measures to control street crimes. He said the high rate of conversion fee (20% of Commercial Value) for land use charged by LDA was an impediment to industrialization and should be abolished.

He said the water tariff of WASA Lahore for industrial and commercial users (Rs.100,000 for 1 Cusec and Rs.50,000 for ½ Cusec) was extremely high as compared to other cities of Punjab like Faisalabad and Multan etc. LCCI recommended that across all cities, it should be uniform.

The LCCI President appreciated the fact that the government of Punjab was providing a relief package to the affected shopkeepers of Hafeez Center, adding, “We propose that they should also be given relief in Provincial Taxes.”

Mian Tariq Misbah said the officials of Punjab Food Authority (PFA) should initially give warning before taking stern action. The spirit should be improving the hygiene standards rather harassing the business community.

The LCCI President demanded that the special economic/export processing zones should be established around Lahore as currently there were only two major Industrial Estates (Sundar and Quaid-e-Azam) which had almost reached their full capacity.

To improve business climate in the province, an inspector-less regime should be implemented in the province, the President said, adding the provincial governments of KPK, Sindh and Balochistan had waived tax on pilgrims for Hajj and Umrah, whereas, the government of Punjab had yet to announce such tax exemption. “You are kindly requested to consider,” he added.

He said the government of Punjab should play its role in resolving the issue of installation of Water Treatment Plants for industrial units.

He emphasized that the relevant officials of government of Punjab should coordinate with LCCI for establishing LDA, WASA, Waste Management and Environment Help Desks at LCCI.

The President further said the business community of Lahore was ready to collaborate with the government of Punjab for finding long term solutions of these issues.