Govt leaves legacy of incompetence, corruption

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: The Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) said on day Sunday the democratic government has left a legacy of massive corruption and incompetence pushing country and masses into total gloom.

Those who take politics as a lucrative business secured their future through plunder while leaving 180 million people insecure, said Farida Rashid, President IWCCI.

Speaking to business community, she said that last five years would be remembered as a black chapter in the history of Pakistan.

The government made new records of incompetence, corruption, nepotism, lawlessness, bulldozing laws and clash of the institutions, she added.

Farida Rashid said that most of the economic, fiscal, foreign and internal policies of the government met with failure while Pakistan faced international disgrace on various occasions.

Government continued to plunder national resources during five years but made a history of loot during its last few days, she observed.

She said that almost all the policies were made to please nobility which took toll on Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs), rupee lost value, record loans were borrowed while collections and forex reserved dwindled.

Government failed to provide enabling environment, improve law and order as well as the circular debt contributing to flight of capital, shifting of industrial units and brain drain.

Incoherent policies left millions jobless while 10 million youth stepped in the job market with no opportunities available. Even the largest urban employment providing sector of textile failed to create a single job, she informed.

Farida said that oil and gas exploration was systematically discouraged to justify import of costly fuel for which the CNG sector was also destroyed.

Government took around Rs 2.7 trillion loans from international lenders out of which 2.3 trillion were used to finance politically run Public Sector Enterprises but none could come out of losses to become profitable entity.

Unprecedented corruption estimated at Rs 1800 billion, shook the foundations of the country and put its very survival.

Masses must learn a lesson as Pakistan cannot afford another round of such democracy, observed Farida Rashid.

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Call for national debate on risks associated with pipeline project

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: The Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) on Friday called for a national debate on risks associated with the Iran pipeline project.

We doubt will and ability of the government to ensure import of natural gas from Iran through a controversial pipeline, said Farida Rashid, President IWCCI.

Government claims to relieve country of energy crisis by importing natural gas from Iran, the quickest and cheapest way to fulfil our energy needs, remained confined to statements over the years, she said.

Speaking to women entrepreneurs, she said that in December 2012, President Zardari unexpectedly cancelled a trip to Iran due to US opposition to the project but now government has been issuing statements of rejecting US pressure days before dissolution of assemblies.

She said that all the statements of politicians claiming to reject US pressure on pipeline from gas surplus Iran are aimed at gaining popularity as country remained ill prepared to face US confrontation.

What took government to become aware of the political and economic risks posed by chronic power and gas shortages after five years of rule, asked Farida Rashid.

Why government did not initiate the project soon after coming to power which would have disallowed energy issue to undermine the countrys stability, helped revive economy and saved millions of jobs, she questioned.

Farida Rashid said that US would never allow Iran to increase its presence and influence and boost foreign exchange reserves at a time when west has imposed tighter sanctions on Tehran even if it means crumbling Pakistans economy, a long-time American ally.

Government should clarify how it would deal with tough US sanctions when country is heading towards a default due to mismanagement and corruption, she said.

We are facing a highly unstable balance of payment situation, forex reserves are at unsatisfactory level and government is unable to pay for imports for over sixty days which necessitates entering into a stand-by agreement with IMF, she added.

President of the IWCCI called upon a national debate on pros and cons of the project at a time Pakistan needs an IMF loan of 9-10 billion dollar loan from the IMF which will be impossible without US nod, she said.

Farida Rashid said that we will never have reliable energy supply from Iran unless US stop looking at the project from a political angle and start considering it imperative for survival of Pakistan.

Trimming Ogra authority to open floodgates of corruption: IWCCI

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: The Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) said on Tuesday stripping Ogra of powers was a conspiracy hatched by influential to ensure freehand to the dishonest elements in the petroleum sector that are playing havoc with the country.

Advisor to the Prime Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr. Asim Hussain has been conspiring against Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) to promote personal interests while spending too much time in blaming other for his failures, it said.

Ogra is not subservient to petroleum ministry and answerable to the Cabinet only but petroleum mafia continue to make childish plots against regulator in a bid to get blank cheque for exploitation, said Farida Rashid, President IWCCI.

Speaking to women entrepreneurs, she said that the campaign against Orga is also aimed at discouraging honest officers to total submission which is no more a possibility in the current set of events.

Farida Rashid said that the Adviser should demonstrate courage to admit his failures and stop placing blame elsewhere to get time to improve the prevailing situation.

She said that gas distribution companies have failed to stop theft of gas while the Adviser has been convincing government to provide Rs 7 billion subsidy to gas companies to overcome losses which is shocking as well as shameful.

Rejecting the repeated statements by Adviser regarding involvement of hundreds of CNG filling stations in gas theft, Farida said that he would not have confined his reaction to media statements only if there was any truth in the claims.

Government must clarify why it is not taking any action against violators and what is barring them from publication of lists of CNG outlets involved in theft with the names of operators and officials of the gas companies involved in the crime, the IWCCI president said.

Farida Rashid said that apart from business community and masses, the politicians linked to ruling coalition are also weary of the way energy sector has been handled as they fear a backlash from masses in the upcoming elections.

Adviser petroleum having the honour of only petroleum minister in the world who is a doctor has failed to stop theft or introduce any policy to stop dwindling growth rate. He has started defaming CNG sector to hide his helplessness and disappointments.

A strict action against theft of electricity over the years would have deterred those involved in gas theft to the tune of around 8.5 crore per day.

She stressed that Canadian nationals cannot be allowed to destroy Rs 400 billion investments in the CNG sector which is paying around Rs 86 billion in taxes, providing economical fuel and employment to millions.

Doctors should not try to manage critical energy sector like hospitals, clinics and dispensaries and stop playing havoc with countrys energy mix to fulfil personal ambitions, she demanded.

Rashid said that masses were relieved of billion in the name of illegal cess but there is no move so far for accountability or track the lavish spending. Masses will get relief only when a better and more accountable government is at the helm.

Investment in women will open the doors to prosperity

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: President Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) Farida Rashid has said that development in South Asia is tied to peace and development of women which are confronting many cultural, legal and social barriers.

Barriers are impeding growth of women and keeping them to play their due role in the development of country by full participation in the economic activities, she said.

She said this while speaking at a 2-day conference of presidents of women chambers and female entrepreneurs from Saarc region organised by CIPE (Centre for International Private Enterprise) in collaboration with Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Dhaka.

Farida Rashid said that indicators for health, welfare, education, and income for women of this region are among the lowest in the world despite attention of donors and governments which must be analysed in detail.

She said that building the capacity of women is something which is not getting due attention of authorities as well as private sector which is a great impediment in improving business climate for ladies.

The president IWCCI said that situation in Pakistan is far from satisfactory but better from some Saarc counties while the recent unanimously approval of the much-awaited Trade Organisation Act by Pakistan is a great move in the right direction.

Stressing the importance of coalition of women business associations in the region, Farida Rashid said that entrepreneurship development needs sharing ideas, best practices, and experience with groups having little exposure.

Farida Rashid said that CIPE has imparted training to around 100 business chambers and associations to improve their capacity which is a great service to the country and region.

During the conference, the participants shared ideas like business and strategic plans, exchanged ideas for future collaboration in terms of visioning, training and trade promotion activities.

Flexible rules for establishing women’s chamber demanded

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: The Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW) on Tuesday said new rules framed to create chambers for women, small traders and cottage industry should be flexible enough to attract the business community.

Some clauses in the Trade Organisation Bill 2013 approved by the joint committee of National Assembly and Senate Standing Committees on Commerce recently will only benefit the business community if it is widely accepted, it said.

The current set of rules may prove unappealing for majority of businessmen leaving the whole exercise counterproductive, said Dr. Murtaza Mughal, President PEW.

The legislation for setting up business chambers in every district of the country will only benefit millions of small traders and business women if conditions are relaxed, he said.

Dr. Murtaza Mughal said that condition of 150 members for a chamber and 100 members for womens chambers having a valid National Tax Number would be difficult to meet in some small districts.

He said that majority of businesswomen work from homes with no exposure, minimum opportunities and dependence on middlemen. They dont possess NTNs and there is less likelihood that many would get one to secure membership in a chamber.

Similarly, many in the trading community, which are already weary of FBRs highhandedness, will find option to join chambers of small traders on the cost of exposure to tax authorities unpleasant, he said.

Dr. Murtaza Mughal said that existing chambers are commerce are dominated by certain groups serving the interests of some medium and large enterprises with small traders having no voice.

It is an open secret that not a single chamber conducts an election but rely on selection procedure which is a cause of heartburn among many legitimate businessmen.

Free elections give more power to the voters to engage in the decision-making process, while the chambers prefer a system that is based on blatant self-interest.

Government should ensure that the new law is acceptable to small traders who have already expressed reservations over dominance of FPCCI-linked politicians in the concerned NA and Senate bodies otherwise shutter down will remain first option for small traders in case of any disagreement.

Govt serious about empowering women: Ghurki

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: Federal Minister for National Heritage and Integration Samina Khalid Ghurki on Tuesday said government is taking significant steps to empower women which is a prerequisite for national development.

Government had taken remarkable steps for empowering women in the country while paying special attention to businesswomen in urban and rural areas, she said.

Talking to a delegation of Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) led by its founder President Samina Fazil and sitting president Farida Rashid.

Samina Khalid Ghurki said that legislations focusing women shows our commitment to strengthen the women.

She said that expos are a good tool to empower women and government will fully support Islamabad Expo 2013 being organised by IWCCI.

Ghurki said unless women were economically strengthened, they would be treated as second grade citizens and would have no access to their rights.

The federal minister said that Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) was another unprecedented step of the government to protect and empower women economically.

Government wants an end to gender discrimination in the country and had a mission to mobilise the collective strength of women to turn this region into a safe land, she said.

Samina Khalid Ghurki said that government wants private sector participation to boost capacity of the women to ensure good future for our next generations.

Talking at the occasion Samina Fazil and Farida Rashid said that women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate with little access to medical care, property ownership, credit, training and employment.

Lauding the initiatives of the government to empower women, they said a lot is to be done to invest in women development without which goal of national development is not achievable.

The roles that men and women play in society should not be socially determined, Samina said adding that women’s empowerment is vital to sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all.

Tax system seen as a major threat to the country

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: The unfair and oppressive tax structure is the greatest threat the country faces, the Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) said on Sunday.

Our tax system is promoting inequality which is damaging countrys growth and blocking access of masses to economic opportunities, said Farida Rashid, President IWCCI.

Worsening inequality has reached to an extreme level due to reluctance of the government to impose tax on rich, unwillingness of authorities to bring exempted and influential into the tax net and limited redress opportunities available to honest taxpayers, she said.

Speaking to the business community, she said that reforms have become imperative as complex tax system redistributes a small amount of money while doing little to slow the polarization of wealth.

She said that tax is imposed on rich to benefit poor but in our country it is other way around due to non-transparent postings in the FBR by the political class.

Powers to amend tax laws lies with the executive that has resulted in many problems including the infamous SRO culture which is strangulating poor to please rich, she observed.

Farida Rashid said that proper taxation on agricultural income, real estate, brokers and retail sectors can resolve most of the problems country is facing if FBR is freed from political influence.

Why anyone should expect masses to pay taxes when rulers dont while over seventy per cent of legislators have never bothered to file returns, she questioned.

Governments determination to introduce tax amnesty schemes despite disapproval by IMF, coalition partners, opposition and experts means that honest taxpayers are being provided incentive to become tax evaders, she said.

How come authorities try to plug loopholes in the system to broaden tax net and support tax dodgers at the same time, she asked.

She said that FBR took Rs 10 billion from World Bank to introduce reforms in the system which resulted in reduced tax-to-GDP ratio by almost three per cent.

The practice of fixing unrealistic revenue collection targets and later revising it down has only helped others to laugh at us.

Pakistan has not future sans a workable and effective tax policy after taking inputs from all the stakeholders and experts.

Five years of democratic rule proved difficult for masses, economy

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) on Saturday said that the policies and performance of the government in last five years is pushing country towards total economic collapse.

The democratic government disappointed majority as multiple crises left millions insecure and vulnerable, said President IWCCI Farida Rashid while speaking to businesswomen.

Government failed to improve situation of employment, education, energy, environment and equity which was part of its manifesto, she said.

Farida Rashid said that policies to promote nobility and squeeze poor left economy half-dead while rupee eroded by 36 per in five years getting prominent position in the club of worst performing currencies.

Despite warnings, the government accumulated the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the country pushing government debt from 6 trillion to 13 trillion, she informed.

The energy crisis was used to meet personal goals while CNG decisions left millions jobless and starving as majority of those who lost jobs at filling stations and workshops have no other marketable skill, she said.

President IWCCI said that government set new records of mismanagement, and broken promises which earned it suspicions inside the country and on global level.

She said that economic growth which was dismal 3.7 pc has been projected to slide to 3.2 pc this fiscal which will make it difficult to repay $ 7.5 billion to IMF by 2015.

Pakistan is the only country is the region where the production of gas and electricity is going down while prices are going up, she added.

With four per cent annual increase, gas theft has reached to Rs 30 billion while electricity theft and losses have touch mark of Rs 139 billion for which masses are being held responsible and made to pay, she regretted.

Flour crisis has also added to the uncertainty among masses that were already facing multiple problems.

Farida Rashid said that policy to promote elite resulted in greater divide between rich and poor, reduced tax collection, gloomy economy and few job opportunities for millions of job-seekers.

She said that claims and statement of success will not help anymore; rulers will need to frame policies to resolve the economic breakdown and change strategy of pumping massive wealth into the coffers of nobility.

Founder President IWCCI Samina Fazil, Naima Ansari, Perveen Khan and others were also present on the occasion.

India to lift trade barriers after getting MFN status: Senator

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: India will lift non-tariff trade barriers on Pakistani exports once Islamabad grant Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to New Delhi, a Senator said.

MFN is not a concession to India but part of an agreement signed between two countries, said Senator Haji Ghulam Ali, Chairman, Senate Standing Committee for Commerce.

Talking to a delegation of female entrepreneurs led by Samina Fazil, founder President, Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) and President IWCCI Farida Rashid, he said that MFN will start a new era of countless possibilities and opportunities.

He said that we have almost finalised Trade Organisations Act 2012 which will be put to a joint standing committee of Senate and National Assembly on Jan 23 and it would be passed within current month or during early February.

Ghulam Ali who has recently served as President FPCCI said that after promulgation of act it will be obligatory on FPCCI to have a women vice president on rotation basis.

Moreover, the businessmen and business chambers of FATA will also get representation in the Apex trade body, he added.

The Senator said that the new act will facilitate business community while formation of a business chamber will become extremely easy.

He called upon the IWCCI to promote rural women who are facing exploitation by the middlemen.

At the occasion, Samina Fazil and Farida Rashid demanded of the government to grant MFN status to India as soon as possible.

They said that businesswomen faces popular opposition from certain sectors of society but gender equality is likely to increase despite setbacks.

Government should put female empowerment at the heart of their agenda, demanded Fazil.

Australia keen to support Pakistan’s female entrepreneurs: Heyward

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: The High Commissioner of Australia to Pakistan Mr. Peter Heyward on Wednesday said his country is keen to support Pakistani female entrepreneurs who are highly capable and resilient.

He said that the embassy of Australia and Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) will jointly push women empowerment initiatives and businessmen from his country would participate in upcoming Islamabad expo 2013.

Mr. Peter Heyward said this while talking to a function organised by IWCCI. Founder President IWCCI Samina Fazil, President IWCCI Farida Rashid, President AWCCI Firdosia Fazal, Ms. Raja, Naima Ansari association of beauticians and others were also present on the occasion.

The High Commissioner informed of the recent developments particularly the positive economic growth and the growing business confidence by foreign investors which was an opportunity for Pakistani investors.

Wife of the envoy, Ms Suzzane Heyward said she looks forward to closer cooperation, partnership and exchange of delegations.

Women entrepreneurs play a vital role in economic development of any country, Pakistan needs to support women to bring the country back to economic growth, she said.

Suzzane added that she would do everything to assisting Pakistan women to improve their competitiveness which will enhance their revenue generating capacity.

Speaking on the occasion, Samina Fazil and Farida Rashid acknowledged the numerous positive developments in the Australia and agreed to work closely in furthering economic relations.

They stated that both the Embassy and the Chamber can work together on joint activities such as business seminars, and trade missions, among others.

Samina and Farida lauded the initiatives taken by SME Business Support Fund and demanded creation of an entrepreneurship support fund for women.

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