New law inked to curb hoarding

-Govt issues Ordinance to punish hoarders with 3-year jail term
-PM says public, economy suffer owing to curse of smuggling, hoarding
-Ordinance also approved to help construction sector

By Uzma Zafar

ISLAMABAD: The federal government ratified an ordinance against hoarding of basic food items and goods on Friday.The move comes a few months after the sugar and wheat crises caused prices of basic food items to skyrocket across the country.
The prime minister presided over a meeting focused on curbing smuggling and hoarding of basic food items. As per the ordinance, those found guilty of hoarding will be slapped with a three-year imprisonment sentence and a heavy fine. The prime minister directed the government to seek help from intelligence agencies in identifying smugglers and hoarders. During the meeting, he said that stern action against smugglers and hoarders was necessary as these crimes ultimately resulted in the poor paying a heavy price.
During the meeting, the prime minister reportedly said that stern action against hoarding and profiteering was unavoidable as the offences damaged the country’s economy. He called on the government to appoint honest and trustworthy officers to keep in check hoarding and similar offences.
PM Imran asked the government to monitor the situation regarding food prices on a daily basis and ensure no administrative hurdles thwarted the government from performing its duties.
PM Imran has, on several occasions in the past, warned that the government will take strict action against those found involved in profiteering and hoarding.
“Those who want to make money from the hunger of the poor, the state will take strict action against you. The state will make an example out of you,” he had said last month during his address to the nation. In January, prices of wheat surged across the country after it emerged that

the staple food’s quantity had decreased significantly in markets across the country.
The News had reported that the wheat crisis originated in Sindh and then spread to other provinces. It said that corruption probes against officials in the Sindh government discouraged many in the province from the procurement of wheat that would otherwise have increased existing surplus wheat stock. At one point, the reserve stock was as low as 0.2 million tons.
The problem was exacerbated by a decision to export 200,000 to 400,000 tons of wheat, keeping in view surplus stocks on the basis of estimates presented by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, but the actual exports of wheat crossed 640,000 tons.
Shortly after the wheat crisis ended, sugar prices went up as the product was found scarce in short supply in markets across the country. Hoarding and an artificial increase in the prices of the commodity were cited as the main reasons for the surge in the prices of the product.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday terming smuggling a curse for national economy said strict action was inevitable against smugglers, hoarders and profiteers to eliminate such ills from the society.
Chairing a meeting to control smuggling, crackdown on hoarders and eliminating locust attacks on crops, the prime minister said smuggling and hoarding resulted in inflation that put direct financial burden on general public and poor.
The meeting was attended by Interior Minister Brig (retd) Ijaz Shah, Minister for National Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam, Planning minister Asad Umer, Minister for Economic Affairs Khusro Bakhtiar, Finance Adviser Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, PM’s Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, Chairman National Disaster Management Authority General Muhammad Afzal and senior officials. The prime minister emphasized the role of intelligence agencies in checking smuggling and hoarding and called for appointment of honest and dutiful officers at checkpoints.
He also stressed effective coordination among the provinces with monitoring on daily basis and directed to ensure smooth working without any administrative hurdle. The participants were briefed about target of wheat procurement for next year and provision of ‘bardana’ (gunny bags) for farmers.
Khusro Bakhtiar told the meeting that Punjab government and Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) took timely steps for wheat procurement and other provinces needed to follow the suit.
He said that last year, four million ton wheat was procured with this year’s target as 8.2 million ton, however mentioned some difficulties in this regard following the recent rains.
The Prime Minister stressed comprehensive strategy to ensure provision of wheat and flour to consumers. The meeting discussed ongoing emergency regarding the attacks of locust swarms on crops and the steps taken so far to control including spray of pesticides through planes and other machines. Purpose-built spray aircraft and machinery has already been imported from China, however more equipment is required which was delayed due to coronavirus lockdown, the meeting was informed.
Prime Minister Imran Khan termed locusts another big problem for the country and directed availability of funds for its elimination.
The federal cabinet on Friday approved an ordinance providing legal cover to the incentive package announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan for the construction industry earlier this month in a bid to create employment opportunities in the country to ward off adverse affects of the coronavirus crisis on economy. Under the ordinance, a fixed tax regime is being introduced for builders and developers.
There will be no withholding tax on the construction material except cement and steel. Provision of services has been exempted from withholding tax. As per the ordinance, tax has been reduced by 90 per cent for low cost houses to be constructed under ‘Naya Pakistan Housing Authority’.
This incentive package will be applicable for the projects to be initiated before the end of this year as well as the ongoing incomplete projects, which will get themselves registered under the scheme.
The builders and developers will have to get their new and ongoing projects with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) through IRIS web portal. One time exemption has been given on capital gain tax for the house measuring 500 square yards and flat of 4,000 square yards.