Islamabad:The taxation policies towards the tobacco industry in Pakistan need to be based on real evidence, including the facts and figures about the share of illicit and smuggled products in the Pakistani market.
This was the crux of discussion by trade experts during a webinar on ‘Illicit, illegal or smuggled tobacco products in Pakistan – deconstructing tobacco industry’s narratives’ organised here by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
Dr. Karam Elahi, Additional Collector, Pakistan Customs, Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR), asserted that one of the major problems pertaining to Pakistan’s economy is the lack of written documentation and the same applies to the tobacco industry. He suggested that there should be tobacco control in the country. He said that political consensus should be developed for coming up with the right tax policies to respond to the challenges in the industry.
Khurram Hashmi, Country Lead, The Union, was of the view that it is high time to revisit the existing debate around the industry with the lens of the wellbeing of the people. Besides, coordination amongst stakeholders should be improved to build a joint narrative about the tobacco industry and taxation issues.
Dr. Amina Khan, Executive Director, The Initiative, while presenting facts and figures about illicit tobacco trade in Pakistan, stressed that regular and timely information on tobacco users of Pakistan could help in making key policy decisions pertaining to industry and taxation issues. She said that there are several measures that could be taken to stop and discourage tax evasion in the industry.
Earlier, Waseem Janjua from SDPI highlighted that there are various narratives about the illicit trade and share in taxation by tobacco companies but most of such narratives do not hold any truth. He concluded that one in six-packs consumed in Pakistan could be illicit whereas tobacco companies tend to misguide the government about the facts to influence taxation policies.