KARACHI: Under the directions of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to kick start operations at the Gwadar Port, Federal Board of Revenue has taken the initiative which resulted in arrival of the first fish carrier containing 200 Tons of fish from international waters at Gwadar. The fish will be shipped to China in reefer containers opening up a new era of prosperity and growth for the people of Baluchistan and the economy of the country. Pakistan Customs is all geared up to realize the vision of the Prime Minister Imran Khan for transforming Gwadar into an International Transit trade Hub and facilitate trade through Gwadar Port. FBR has already notified International Transshipment Rules vide SRO 218(I)/2020 dated 10.03.2020. A dedicated Directorate of Transit Trade has also been established at Gwadar to work closely with the stakeholders and transform Gwadar into a Transit trade hub.
As a result of this proactive approach and support of all stakeholders, in the coming days, more vessels containing international cargo including LPG, Steel Pipes, DAP fertilizer for transit to Afghanistan is scheduled to arrive at Gwadar Port. This reflects the confidence of the international business community and shipping lines in the economic potential of the Port and excellent trade facilitation measures put in place by Pakistan Customs. Gwadar is the future of Pakistan and will help the country in earning much needed foreign exchange in the future.
During the recent visit of a high level Pakistani delegation to Afghanistan led by Advisor on Commerce, the Afghan businessmen have shown interest in making investment for trade through Gwadar Port.
Pakistan has considerably improved its implementation of World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) from 34% in June, 2018 to 79% in November, 2020, stated in a Press Release by Federal Board of Revenue. Due to improvement in the implementation of TFA, Pakistan has improved 31 positions in Trading Across Border Index which tangibly contributed to rise of Pakistan (from 136th position to 108th position) in the Global Fund’s Annual Ease of Doing Business 2020 Report. Implementation of WTO’s TFA by Pakistan is greater than regional countries like India and Bangladesh whose implementation rate is 78.2% and 36.1% respectively. Pakistan’s implementation rate is higher than those of average of all WTO members (which is at 65.5%) and the average of all developing countries (which is at 65.2%).
Trade facilitation is an effective driver for stimulating economic activity, attracting foreign direct investment, promoting exports and generating employment. In line with the direction of the Prime Minister to thoroughly facilitate the trade (involved in imports, exports, and transit) for achievement of the strategic objectives of economic and export-led growth, Pakistan Customs, Federal Board of Revenue followed an integrated plan. The Chairman, Federal Board of Revenue specifically designated dedicated project teams under Member (Customs) to ensure implementation of World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in Pakistan. The teams worked industriously and all this has resulted in substantial implementation (and compliance with) the TFA and have comprehensively facilitated national/regional/international trade.
Salient TFA reforms / provisions, that have been implemented, are Authorized Economic Operators (AEO) Program, Advance Ruling, Electronic payments, Pre-Arrival Processing, Freedom of Transit, Opportunity to Comment and Information before Entry into Force, Temporary Admission of Goods and Inward and Outward Processing, Risk Management and Post Clearance Audit. According to the WTO, amongst the most difficult-to-implement (and least notified) provisions are Single Window and Border Agency cooperation. Despite it, significant work has been done on these important areas with the help of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and these provisions would be implemented in Pakistan well within timelines.
Implementation of WTO’s TFA by Pakistan is acknowledged worldwide. According to the World Bank, Pakistan has made the top 10 list of governments that have done the most in the past year to improve the ease of doing business in their countries. OECD Trade Facilitation Indicators Data Base (2019) has acknowledged Pakistan’s best performance across the areas under TFA. Moreover, The World Customs Organization (WCO) has stated that “considering the recent advancement of Pakistan Customs administration for proceeding TFA, Pakistan Customs administration is very suitable to be listed in the successful countries.
Pakistan Customs, Federal Board of Revenue is committed to implement the vision of the Prime Minister of Pakistan not only to transform/upgrade the facilitation level for the trade but also to make Pakistan a regional hub of the trade activities.
TLTP adds: Meanwhile, The FBR on Friday issued draft rules for issuance of centralised payment of income tax refund.
The FBR issued SRO 1239(I)/2020 to issue draft amendment to Income Tax Rules, 2002. According to the rules, the FBR shall establish a Centralised Income Tax Refund Office (CITRO) for centralised payment of refund amount to such claimants and from such date as the FBR may specify.
From such date to be notified by the FBR, the commissioner shall transmit an order under Sub-Section (4) of Section 170 of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 through IRIS to the treasury officer in CITRO under his digital signature, and regain a copy thereof for record.
The treasury officer in CITRO and the co-signatory designated by the FBR in this regard shall issue the cheque or a promissory note to the FBR Refund Settlement Company Limited, as the case may be, for the sanctioned amount as mentioned in the refund order or online transfer.
The CITRO shall also prepare a statement of payment advice for the concerned bank on a daily basis, for direct transfer to the taxpayer under intimation to the CITRO, the concerned commissioner as well as the taxpayer.
The in-charge of CITRO shall reconcile the refund cheques and payment advice issued during the month with the banks received from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and record the outcome of such reconciliation in the system.
Where any cheque is returned back by the SBP due to any reason, the treasury officer shall cancel such cheque, if required, and attach such cancelled cheque with the respective counterfoil of the cheque book.