Government ban on luxury goods has been lifted on foreign pressure that accounts for 1/3rd of the luxury item imports. The Economic Coordination Committee lifted a ban on items that are used by the rich to show off their wealth.
On the one hand, banks are reluctant to open letters of credit for items needed by the industry, and on the other hand we have lifted the ban on import of unnecessary luxury items, except automobiles and mobile phones.
A look at the items allowed for release shows that most of these items are produced in our country. The quality of most of the items is satisfactory. Quality could have improved over time on the demand of the richer segment of the society that do not use local items.
Among the items allowed, one fails to understand the necessity to allow the import of sauces, doors and window frames, travel bags and suitcases. Pakistani artisans and industry could have upgraded the quality to the level required by the rich within a few months.
The price would have increased a little below the imported stuff that the rich currently buy. Quality sanitary ware is produced in Pakistan at less than half the imported price. Pakistan is home to some quality fish. Freshwater fish is available in our rivers and dams. High valued trout is available in the rivers flowing from mountains in the hilly region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
With time, we could have developed a process to preserve the fish stocks for the rich. Currently, preservation is not possible because the rich consume imported fish and frozen fish.
What was the need to allow carpet imports when we produce best hand knotted carpets and we have industry making machine made carpets? Almost 40 percent of our fruits perish due to absence of preservation.
Demand for preserved food is low in Pakistan as only the rich use it and that too is imported. We produce the best flavored mangoes, citrus fruits, guava, bananas, cherry, and what not. Moreover, import of fruits from Afghanistan continues as it was not banned.
Is there a shortage of tissue paper in Pakistan? Why has the ban on its import been lifted? Instead of removing the ban on import of furniture, the government should have facilitated the import of quality and seasoned wood that would boost furniture export.
The ban on import of shampoos was hurting some multinationals that despite having facilities to make shampoos locally are importing them from their foreign branches. That is probably what the US Ambassador meant when he gave a statement that the ban is hurting businesses.
Ban on import of shampoos would have brought back jobs in Pakistan. Do we need to import confectionery, luxury mattresses and sleeping bags, jams and jelly, cornflakes, toiletries? Is there a dearth of heaters, blowers, sunglasses, kitchenware, and aerated water in Pakistan?
We process frozen meat, juices, pasta, ice cream, cigarettes, shaving goods, luxury leather apparel of good quality if the rich are prepared to pay the same price they pay for imported stuff. Maybe we are not producing quality musical instruments, salon items like hair dryers and lifting ban could be justified. But the lifting of the ban on chocolates is likely to benefit a multinational that imports chocolates instead of producing them in Pakistan. Lifting of ban on most items would also lift the morale of fast-moving goods imported by large grocers.
The writer is a staff member