LAHORE: Punjab Minister for Industries, Commerce and Investment Sheikh Allauddin proposed the imposition of a 25% luxury tax on posh restaurants and hotels which served food late into the night.
He stressed those food items, which are only accessible to the rich, should also be made available to the common man. He was responding to reservations expressed by the opposition over the ‘regulatory duty’ imposed on different items.
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On Friday, as the one-hour debate on ‘regulatory duty’ kicked off at the Punjab Assembly, the minister suggested that luxury tax be imposed on hotels and posh eateries serving food after 8pm.
He said that a segment of society which works day in and day out should be given such items at affordable prices. “Why are their rights being usurped?” he asked. The minister added there should be no objection to the imposition of taxes on a segment of society which could spend exorbitant amounts of money on a bridal lehnga.
Responding to the reservations of the opposition leader about the skyrocketing prices of vegetables, such as potatoes, tomatoes, onions and other products, he assured the prices of tomatoes would come down once it was supplied from Sindh. Allauddin pointed out that neither was there a rate issue nor a shortage of tomatoes in the market up until July. He said Balochistan always supplied tomato to Punjab in August and September, but a virus meant that far fewer truckloads came into the province. He added the shortage caused a surge in prices and later tomatoes from K-P were supplied. Ultimately, prices hit Rs.110 to Rs.120 per kilogramme as the supply from the north was not enough either.
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The minister claimed that certain groups from Pakistan, who imported tomato from India, started pressurising the government and used different tactics to get permission. He continued that the government foiled all such attempts to ensure that the rights of farmers were protected.
Turning his attention to the regulatory duty, he asked the opposition leader to point out a single item used by the common man which had been affected. He asked why a regulatory duty could not be imposed on people who had 3000cc cars or vehicles valuing Rs40million.
The minister continued that it was the government’s obligation to protect farmers, adding a 60% ‘regulatory duty’ was imposed on wheat to shield them if someone imports the commodity.
“We imposed ‘regulatory duty’ in the larger interest of nation and its industry.’ He assured the legislators there was no such duty on items being used by the masses.
“Perhaps, the opposition leader has reservations of the imposition of 50% regulatory duty over perfumes, lipstick, eyeliners, nail polish, face-powder, skin creams, talcum-powder and other material.”
In reply, the opposition leader said the minister only focused on regulatory duty. He pointed out that the debate was on both regulatory duty and skyrocketing prices of food items, especially vegetables. Rasheed said his focus was the common man whose life was being put to the grind due to the high prices. He asked if PML-N was sleeping at that time the budget was unveiled. “This is also thanks to the failed economic policies of the Ishaq Dar,” he stressed.
During the question hour, legislators of the treasury benches, asking queries of the food and agriculture departments, raised objections that milk was still being supplied in drums once used for chemicals. They added that farmer’s dues were not being cleared. The ministers of both the departments satisfied most legislators through their answers, although some were not entirely happy over the replies.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2017.
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