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.

IWCCI concerned over low gas pressure for domestic consumers

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: The Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) on Friday expressed concern over low gas pressure for domestic consumers.

Daily life has been badly affected due to inconsistent gas pressure for the last four days which is unusual at this time, it said.

Gas companies should look into the issue and take necessary steps for improvement, said Farida Rashid, President IWCCI while speaking to business community.

Flanked by Samina Fazil, founder president IWCCI, she said that people in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and other cities are braving low gas supply which regularly drops from 6am to 10am.

Homemakers are unable to cook food, provide breakfast or even tea to school-going children while the costly alternative of LPG is not affordable for majority.

She said that the prices of LPG have been revised upward recently which amounts to punishing people. Surprisingly no action has been taken against LPG mafia.

Farida Rashid said that CNG filling stations are closed due to differences between owners of private stations and government on pricing issue which leaves little room to justify low gas pressure.

SNGPL and SSGS claims that CNG sector is consuming 6.7 per cent of the total gas production, masses have a right to ask where all the gas is flowing when CNG stations are closed, she said.

Farida Rashid said that government has been punishing masses in biting weather while claiming that domestic sector in on top of their priority list.

She informed that 113 captive power plants are operating in the country on an average efficiency of 27 per cent and consuming 454 million cubic feet of gas per day.

Agreement between gas providers and captives clearly states that captives would use gas for nine months while they will not get gas from Nov 15 to Feb 15.

Moreover, some captive plants were provided gas as secondary fuel but they are using it as primary fuel in violation of agreement which is paving way for crisis, the IWCCI president said.

Samina Fazil said that the gas providers have slowed down their compressors to forge public opinion against CNG sector.

The scarcity of CNG has pushed up demand for petrol while sales are likely to cross the three million tonnes mark by end of this fiscal compared to 2.7 million tons sale in 2011-12 which will bring reserves under additional pressure, said Samina.

Women’s involvement must for sustainable development: CDA

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: Member Planning and Design CDA Syed Mustafain Kazmi on Wednesday said that burden of this poverty on women must be reduced to ensure their empowerment which will trigger the national development.

Country can only progress if women are not neglected for which their empowerment is of paramount importance, he said.

He was speaking to women entrepreneurs representing Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) and Abbottabad Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AWCCI).

Founder President IWCCI Samina Fazil, President IWCCI Farida Rashid, President AWCCI Firdosia Fazal, Adviser IWCCI Malik Sohail and other officials and members of both chambers were also present on the occasion.

Mustafain Kazmi said that Chairman Syed Tahir Shahbaz is very keen to promote women; particularly businesswomen for which has formed a high-powered committee which will propose steps to achieve goal of gender equality and women empowerment.

He said that CDA will give preferential treatment, concession and free services to women where possible as the present government is committed in creating an enabling environment for masses, business community and for women in particular.

Member Planning and Design CDA Syed Mustafain Kazmi said that meaningful and sustainable economic development must involve all citizens as economic growth can guarantee social harmony and prosperity.

He said adding that poverty alleviation strategies are the central part of the overall national development initiatives.

At the occasion, Samina Fazil said that the women are a catalyst for change if the objective of eradicating poverty is to be attained.

Farida Rashid said that policymakers should design development interventions in a way that could financially empower women to make a difference in their living conditions.

Malik Sohail, who is also Chairman Media FPCCI, said that in todays globalized world a level playing field for men and women is imperative.

We need to explore innovative ways to overcome the obstacles to empower women and ensure gender equality, said Kazmi.

IWCCI assures full support, guidance to AWCCI

Islamabad, MTT News Desk: Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) on Wednesday assured full support and guidance to Abbotabad Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AWCCI).

The encouragement came in a meeting between IWCCI and a delegation of AWCCI headed by its President Firdosia Fazal.

Speaking at the occasion, Samina Fazil, Founder President, IWCCI said that many small businesses in Pakistan are run by women but quite a few gets encouragement or support.

Chairman Coordination FPCCI Atif Ikram Sheikh, President IWCCI Farida Rashid, President AWCCI Firdosia Fazal, Chairman Media FPCCI Malik Sohail and others were also present on the occasion.

Samina Fazil said that some hassles including gender barriers emerge when women starts working for themselves, she said adding that there are very few women in the bodies that represent small to medium-sized businesses.

There is not a single woman in many Chambers of Commerce and trade and industry associations, she said.

We welcome the timely launching of proposed AWCCI and will back all moves aimed at providing any help to female entrepreneurs, said Samina.

Lauding the government initiatives Samina said that not many countries have separate chambers of commerce for women but stressed the need for more actions to improve womens participation in the economy.

She asked AWCCI leaders to focus on five core areas of access to capital, capacity and skills building, womens leadership and access to markets and gender balance.

Atif Ikram Sheikh, Farida Rashid, and Malik Sohail also spoke on the occasion. They said that many women are starting up businesses but they find access to capital very difficult. Banks are still asking for a husband or other male guarantor when women apply for business loans.

Despite high economic potential women who cant get access to capital notwithstanding the fact that ratio of defaults is almost non-existent in women borrowers, they observed.

First Women Bank Limited findings show womens return on investment was higher than for their male counterparts and women were more likely to repay debt, they noted.

Malik Shoail, who is also Advisor IWCCI said that economic expansion to unlock growth is not possible without supporting women.

Being member of a chamber is beneficial for finding new contacts, markets, mentoring, leadership, training and educational opportunities and tools to grow business to success, he said.

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