Import ban of luxury goods to save $4bln, support local industry: PM

KARACHI, May 20 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif Friday said that ban on the import of luxury and non-essential items would not only save $4 billion but also support the local industry besides addressing the social imbalance.

“The objective of banning (import of luxury item) – for a specific time – is to save foreign exchange and bring stability. If we save $4 billion, this can meet our whole edible oil needs… This is like earning $4 billion,” the prime minister said addressing an event of the businessmen held by the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industries here.

He said the poor people living in Gilgit Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or Balochistan, struggling for their bread to eat, medicine to treat illness and clothes to wear, would feel neglected to see the elite enjoying the imported luxury goods. However, this ban on the import of such items would address that social imbalance.

He said as this import ban would support the local industry, there was also a need to cap the prices of those items under a certain formula.

The prime minister also urged the business community to suggest solutions to the prevailing economic situation.

He told that gathering that in 2018, the dollar rate stood at Rs115 which jumped to Rs189 during three and half years of the previosu government.

“When I took the oath, it (dollar) was at Rs189. This Rs 60-65 rise is not our fault,” he remarked.

He said having perceived the success of the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan, the previous government reduced the oil prices despite the country facing a huge debt burden.

He said the ousted government neither provided relief to the common man in sugar, flour or edible oil, nor executed any agriculture or public welfare project with serious intention.

He said with an 80% increase, the previous government obtained Rs22,000 billion in loans during its 3.5 years.

Prime Minister Sharif said despite unprecedented support from a national institution, the preceding government could not perform and recalled the mega projects executed during the PML-N government including CPEC, end to load shedding, and installation of wind, solar, and LNG power plants.

He said the nation wanted to know where the huge loans were spent and whether the excessive load shedding was due to political chaos or corruption.

He said if the nation got united and made a resolve, it could change the fate of the country and cited the revival of war-hit Germany and Japan and unprecedented development by China.

“Why can’t we do it? Are we fated to live like a beggar? This is out of the question,” he commented.

He told the gathering that though, being a nuclear power, Pakistan was capable to foil any ill-intention against it, the country lagged behind India in the field of information technology which rose to a $200 billion export market contrary to $1.5 billion of Pakistan.

However, he said he had asked the ministries concerned to take the IT exports to $15 billion by empowering youth.

Coming to the issues faced by the Karachi city, the prime minister said an investment of $1 billion by Saudi Arabia was ready which could be used to address the problem of water supply by installing a desalination plant.

He urged the provincial government to work out the feasibility of the project in coordination with the business community as well as the public representatives.

Calling for the construction of IT towers across the country, the prime minister emphasized the transparent and coordinated policy to establish exports industrial zones providing free of charge land to the exporters through one window operations.

He said it was also equally essential to arrange loans for the exporters to establish export-based and agro-based industries.

Referring to his Thursday’s meeting with a Chinese delegation, the prime minister told the businessmen that they had expressed interest in the Karachi Circular Railway project.

He also asked the business community to suggest a mechanism for the supply of gas to the industries without compromising the needs of the domestic consumers.

He said currently, Pakistan’s oil import bill stood at $20 billion which could only be reduced by promoting green energy, citing huge potential of alternate energy resources in Sindh, Bahawalpur and Balochistan.

Announcing the immediate abolition of the 17% duty on solar penal, the prime minister stressed the need for a compulsory solar geyser policy for every household.

Shehbaz Sharif said during the previous government, he had proposed the signing of the Charter of Economy which was unfortunately laughed out.

The prime minister also expressed the hope for the renewal of the GSP Plus status despite the fact that the previous government had criticized the European Union to serve the personal interest.