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May 24, 2020

Sugar daddies

Opinion

May 24, 2020

One, as per the Report, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar doled out Rs3 billion out of the public treasury to sugar mill owners. When questioned, CM Punjab “stated that he did not remember…..” Wow! Two, Jahangir Khan Tareen tweeted: “I am shocked at the kind of false allegations levelled against me. I have always run a clean business. All Pakistan knows I always pay full price to my growers. I DO NOT maintain 2 sets of Books. I pay all my taxes diligently.”

As per the Report, Mr Amir Waris, Tareen’s employee, took out Rs2.5 billion in cash “from various bank accounts of the Company.” It would be interesting to find out where the truckloads of cash ended up. Intriguingly, under ‘Benami Sales of JDW Sugar’ there’s an amount of Rs5.8 billion.

Three, our sugar daddies claimed that they had exported 2.3 million tons to Afghanistan. Somehow, Afghanistan only received 1.5 million tons. Somehow, Rs48 billion worth of sugar evaporated in thin air. Four, where’s the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP)? As per the Report, our sugar daddies have been routinely overstating the cost of sugar by a wholesome 35 percent but the CCP kept silent. Why?

Five, only the federal government can allow export of sugar. Why did they and who did? Six, over the past couple of years only the Punjab government doled out hefty subsidies. Why?

Seven, according to the Report, our sugar daddies “made profits in excess of Rs100 billion by increasing prices.” In essence, this is a transfer of Rs100 billion from poor Pakistanis to rich Pakistanis. Who facilitated this huge transference of Rs100 billion from poor Pakistanis to rich Pakistanis? A case of reverse-Robin Hood.

Eight, as per the Report, “The response of Mr Asad Umer regarding the change of the ECC decision....is found not convincing by the Commission.” Nine, as per the Report, “The response of Mr Abdul Rezak Dawood, regarding the continuation of export of sugar despite the price hike, was not found convincing by the Commission.”

Ten, according to the Report, “for the period October 2017 to February 2020 total sales of sugar In Pakistan was more than Rs723 billion and 71 percent sales (Rs. 517 billion) of all Sugar Mills are benami sales transactions…” Wah wah!Clearly, politicians from all major political parties shared the Rs100 billion loot. Clearly, government institutions facilitated this Rs100 billion loot. Yes, our sugar daddies maintain two books and two accounting systems. What are the auditors up to?

To be certain, the looted money is not coming back. The government must withdraw itself from the sugar sector. Stop fixing the price for sugarcane. No licence should be required to set up a new mill.

Solution: Free competition. The government must allow import of sugar without any duty whatsoever. The government must allow export of sugar without any duty whatsoever. Result: Pakistanis will get the cheapest sugar and there will never be any shortage of sugar ever. Is the government really looking for solutions?

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @saleemfarrukh