Wednesday 27 June 2012

Azad Kashmir economy needs more attention

KARACHI: The Azad Kashmir agricultural sector has the potential to produce tea of global quality if the government initiated an investment-friendly policy to attract foreign businessmen into farming.

Former President FPCCI, Chaudhry Saeed, also a politician of Azad Kashmir, revealed while talking to The News on Thursday at the Karachi Press Club. He added that Kashmir could also grow flowers of an international standard, but regretted that Pakistan had no significant share in the global trade of flowers, which stood at $1.5 billion.

He stressed the need to diversify the existing manufacturing sectors and agricultural products in Azad Kashmir to boost the national economy. Domestic tourism in the valley also needed to be encouraged, he said.

Chaudhry Saeed reported that the manufacturing units in Azad Kashmir have almost closed down because of the expensive electricity and dual taxation, leaving the textile, ghee producing and other such manufacturing units badly affected.

He urged the FBR to review its taxation system towards Kashmir businesses to stem the closure of industrial units. He hoped that a revised taxation policy for Azad Kashmir would help create an investment-friendly environment in the valley. Saeed demanded that the FBR rationalize the taxation system, commenting that the per capita income was still higher in Kashmir as tax evasion by businessmen was not very prevalent. The ex- FPCCI chief pointed out that the power tariffs for Kashmir were also higher by nearly Rs8 per unit, which also needed a rethink and should be receded.

Showing concern over Kashmir’s share in the NFC, he said that Kashmir had received only Rs9 billion during the last year, under the federal divisible pool, whereas its share stood at two percent. He stated that Rs30 billion as per accord should be given to Kashmir. And that Kashmir’s contribution to the foreign exchange reserves stood at $2.6 billion, out of the total $13 billion, through remittances.

Expressing disappointment over the government’s lack of interest in promoting tourism in AJK, he commented that Kashmir could not attract foreign tourists to its valley because of the government’s policy, which did not permit global visitors. However, local tourists should be encouraged to visit Kashmir, which would help boost the local economy of the people. He cited India’s example, where around a million local Indians tour the occupied Kashmir every year, which has allowed the domestic industry to grow. He pointed out that after the 9/11 incident, tourists of the Arab World thronged the Far Eastern countries. Pakistan, which offered greater facilities for tourists and more panoramic vistas, failed to attract any. Unfortunately the government was also not interested in promoting the business of Halal Food, a global trade, he lamented and added that Pakistan also did not place its products on the global market, while Thailand had a greater share, with its improved expertise in exporting products to international consumers.

The former FPCCI President, who is also the Finance Secretary of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), revealed that his party had already prepared an economic plan on how to augment the national economy and enhance productivity, if they came into power.

Tahir Hasan Khan - The News (June 2012)

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