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News Clips 02 May, 2013

[ Energy conservation project pays off ]
[ FBR orders action against 143 textile tax defaulters ]
[ EU mulls trade action to pressure Bangladesh on safety ]
[ Bangladesh workers vent fury, disaster toll may top 500 ]
[ Bangladesh bosses ask Western firms to stay after tragedy ]

Energy conservation project pays off   [ top ]

DAWN, Staff Report, May 1, 2013
KARACHI, April 30: Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) mostly from textile sector saved on an average 9 per cent of their energy costs with investments that paid back in less than three months.

These results were achieved through energy saving measures implemented in 22 companies since beginning of 2012 under project Espire – a cooperation project of bfz gGmbH (Germany) with Pakistani business associations and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (Smeda).

The participating factories from Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Sialkot found out that energy savings equaled the production capacity of around 3MW and were worth more than Rs61 million per year.

The consultants assigned to the project helped the companies to identify where energy was wasted and supported them to reduce the wastage, explained Salahuddin Farrukh, national project coordinator of bfzgGmbH.

At a concluding ceremony held recently, he said the achieved energy savings were monitored for six months and the staff of the industrial units was been trained to identify energy wastages themselves in future.

The representative bodies of the industrial units included Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers Association (PHMA), Towel Manufacturers Association of Pakistan, Federal B Area Association of Trade and Industry, North Karachi Association of Trade and Industry, Korangi Association of Trade and Industry and Smeda.

Some of these trade bodies have established in-house Technical Support Cell (TSC) with the help of bfzgGmbH and are now properly equipped with trained staff to provide services related to environment, energy and production efficiency.

FBR orders action against 143 textile tax defaulters   [ top ]

THE NEWS, Mehtab Haider, April 26, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The tax authorities have found that there are 143 textile giants who have not paid any penny against outstanding tax liabilities of billions of rupees and now the FBR ordered to initiate prosecution against them, official documents available with The News disclosed.

“We have found 143 potential defaulters and the law of the land will take its course,” a senior FBR official confided to The News here on Wednesday.There are 143 textile giants falling into the category of defaulters’ list by not availing the offered amnesty scheme for clearing their slate by just paying 2 percent of outstanding taxes.

This detection was made by Computerized Risk-Based Evaluation of Sales Tax (CREST) whose domain expert Shafqat Mehmud was removed from his slot but the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended the order of the FBR chairman. Now these defaulters are vulnerable to prosecution as the FBR has instructed in writing to all tax offices to initiate registration of FIRs against defaulters. According to official data of FBR, available with The News, there were 7,790 companies involved in textile sector against which the FBR had offered them for paying 2 percent tax and cleared their obligations. “Out of the 7,790 companies, majority of them availed this scheme and coughed up around Rs4 billion so far into the national kitty,” official sources in the FBR confirmed to The News. The complete list of 7790 companies with details of payment showed that there were still 143 companies even some big names which did not pay their due taxes running into billions.

Of 143 lists of defaulters available with The News, this scribe is giving outstanding tax liability against first 50 companies which have not paid a penny into national kitty. There has been outstanding tax liability against Al Hamd Garments to the tune of Rs178 million at the rate of 2 percent and by multiplying at rate 5 of percent the tax liability will go up close to Rs1 billion. In the list below the tax rate of 2 percent has been used to calculate liability against each company but as these companies did not avail this scheme so their tax obligation increased from 2 percent to 5 percent. On the basis of 2 percent rate, Younas and Associate owed tax liability of Rs118 million, Rida Cloth Rs103 million, Al-Abid Enterprises Rs65 million, Hiba Textile Rs56 million, SM Textile Industries Rs46 million, M/S M Usman Cotton Factory Rs40 million, M/S HA Textiles Rs38 million, M/S SS Traders Rs34 million, Pakeeza Traders Rs33 million, Mehmood Ahmed Weaving Factory Rs32 million, Sohail Sadiq Weaving Factory Rs30 million, M/S ST Enterprises Rs28 million, M/S Khawaja Bashir Ahmed & Company Rs28 million, Hamaza Apparel Rs28 million, M/S Naseem Textiles Rs28 million, SMH Textiles Rs27 million, Diamond Home Textiles Rs26 million, Ahmed Cotton Industries Rs25 million, AI Garments Rs25 million, M/S Wajida Textiles Rs25 million, Hamza Import and Export Rs24 million, New Global Packages Rs24 million, Al-Noor Impex Rs23.641 million, M/S Gulstan Weaving Rs23.488 million, Al Basit Cotton Ginners Rs23.425 million, Margalla Industries Rs23.238 million, Abdul Saboor Textiles Rs23.051 million, M/S Ammar Textiles Rs23.014 million, M/S High Fashion Textile Rs22.264 million, Poly Fabric Textile Rs21.797 million, Marina Traders Rs21.446 million, Bismellah Industries Rs21.416 million, M/S Fabrivo Industries Rs21.310 million, M/S Sara Corporation Rs20.561 million, M/S Elite Clothing Company Rs20.503 million, M/S Haji Mehr-Ud-Din Cotton Ginning & Pressing Factory Rs20.131 million, Munner Ahmed & Company Rs19.828 million, M/S Superior Textile Rs19.571 million, Ever Shine Impex Rs19.391 million, M/S Ajmair Textiles Rs19.279 million, M/S Kanwal Enterprises Rs19.220 million, M/S Atta Baig Cotton Industries Rs18.688 million, M/S Sind Land Development Pvt Ltd Rs18.452 million, M/S Rana Brothers Rs18.382 million, M/S Lal Shahbaz Cotton Ginning Pressing & Oil Mill Rs18.228 million and Mehmooda Maqbool Mills Ltd Rs18.214 million. There has been list of 84 giant companies which have not so far paid full tax liabilities. Among top ten, who have not paid full due tax, these companies have paid an installment but outstanding amount against them seems huge. M/S Saif Textile Mills has paid Rs95.140 million tax against total tax liability of Rs202.473 million so the balance against them stood at Rs107.332 million. The remaining top companies who have not fully paid their tax liabilities include Ibrahim Fibers, Sarhad Textiles, M/S Olympia Blended, M/S Babri Cotton, M/S Kohat Textiles, Nishat Mills Ltd, M/S Gatron Industries, Jamhore Textiles, The Lahore Textiles and General Mills and M/S Margalla Textiles Ltd.

EU mulls trade action to pressure Bangladesh on safety   [ top ]

JUST-STYLE, May 1, 2013
European Union (EU) officials say they are considering action, including the use of the bloc’s trade preference system, to put pressure on Bangladeshi authorities to improve conditions for workers in the country’s apparel industry.

Their concerns were raised following the collapse last week of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, just outside Dhaka, which contained several garment factories. So far more than 400 bodies of workers have been dug out of the rubble — but the final number of casualties is likely to be much higher.

EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht, and foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, said: “The sheer scale of this disaster and the alleged criminality around the building’s construction is finally becoming clear to the world.

“This tragedy is all the more shocking as it follows textile factory fires in Bangladesh in recent months which have killed more than a hundred workers.”

As Bangladesh’s largest trade partner, the EU is “very concerned” about labor conditions, including health and safety provisions, for workers in factories across the country, a statement said.

“In light of all these events, the European Union calls upon the Bangladeshi authorities to act immediately to ensure that factories across the country comply with international labor standards including International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions.

“The EU is presently considering appropriate action, including through the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) — through which Bangladesh currently receives duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market under the ‘Everything But Arms’ scheme — in order to incentivize responsible management of supply chains involving developing countries.”

According to EU trade data, the value of textile and clothing imports from Bangladesh grew by 7.3% in 2012 to €8.56 billion ($11.3 billion), up from €7.98 billion the year before.

Separately, a group of Western apparel retailers and brands have agreed to a deadline later this month to finalise a fire and building safety plan aimed at preventing industrial disasters like the Rana Plaza collapse.

Bangladesh workers vent fury, disaster toll may top 500   [ top ]

DHAKA: Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis joined May Day protests Wednesday to demand the execution of textile bosses over the collapse of a factory complex, as rescuers warned the final toll could be more than 500.

Despite calls by the prime minister for "cool heads", tensions over the country's deadliest industrial disaster showed little sign of abating and there were fears of more violence and vandalism at textile mills.

Workers holding red banners and flags chanted "Hang the killers, Hang the Factory Owners" as they took to the streets of Dhaka at the start of a series of nationwide demonstrations during the public holiday.

Police put the number of protesters at the main rally in Dhaka at more than 20,000, and there were smaller-scale protests elsewhere in the capital and in other cities.

Kamrul Anam, one of the leaders of the Bangladesh Textile and Garments Workers League, said the demonstrators were angry at "the murder" of their colleagues in the April 24 disaster at Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka.

"We want the severest punishment possible for those responsible for this tragedy," he told AFP.

"Enough is enough," said Liakot Khan, another of those taking part in the Dhaka protest, which echoed to the sound of drums and horns.

"The government should hang the proprietor and the factory owners. We want justice for these murders."

The Bangladesh government is also facing foreign pressure to take credible moves to raise safety standards in the garment industry, with the collapse at the Rana Plaza factory complex only the latest in a series of deadly disasters.

The European Union said late Tuesday that it would look at steps to promote better practices in a sector that depends on Western brands, with clothes from retailers Primark, Benetton and Mango manufactured recently at the site.

With bulldozers busy clawing through the ruins of the eight-storey complex, military spokesman Mir Rabbi told AFP that the confirmed death toll now stood at 402.

An army general also told reporters that local officials had drawn up a list of 149 people who are still unaccounted for. A total of eight people have so far been arrested and charged with "death by negligence" over the collapse of the eight-storey building which housed five separate garment factories.

Those charged, who include the overall owner of the building as well as engineers who had given the building the all-clear after cracks were reported, have had to wear bulletproof vests at their court appearances.

Tensions have been further heightened by regular clashes between hardline activists and the police who have been using teargas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds of protesters.

Many of the country's 4,500 garment factories have been closed since last Wednesday, a major blow for the Bangladeshi economy which is powered in large part by the $20 billion industry.

Speaking to parliament on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged employees to return to work and criticised reported attacks on some factories.

"I would like to tell the workers to keep their head cool, keep mills and factories operative, otherwise you will end up losing your jobs," she said.

The United Nations revealed on Tuesday that it had offered to fly in specialist rescue teams only hours after the collapse but Hasina's government had decided to handle the operation on its own.

The deputy director general of the UN's International Labour Organization, Gilbert Houngbo, was expected in Dhaka on Wednesday to discuss with the government how to improve safety standards.

A fire at a textile factory last November left 111 people dead, and there have been widespread accusations that safety standards are both too lax and rarely enforced.

Campaigners say Western retailers who source their clothing to Bangladesh must also take a share of the blame.

Senior European Union officials said Brussels was ready to help Bangladeshi authorities meet international standards and urged foreign companies to promote better health and safety standards in garment factories in Bangladesh.

"The European Union calls upon the Bangladeshi authorities to act immediately to ensure that factories across the country comply with international labour standards," EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a statement.

Bangladesh bosses ask Western firms to stay after tragedy   [ top ]

AFP, Kamrul Hasan Khan, April 30, 2013
Bangladeshi textile bosses pleaded with Western clothing giants to keep doing business with them after nearly 400 people died in a factory collapse as hopes of finding more survivors faded.

Organisers of the mammoth rescue effort ordered in cranes on Monday to clear the ruins of what was once an eight-storey factory compound before it caved in five days ago while some 3,000 textile workers were on shift.

As Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid her first visit to the tangle of concrete, the confirmed the number of dead stood at 382. But the toll is expected to shoot up now that heavy lifting equipment is being used. Rescuers had earlier been wary of using anything but hand-held drills over fears that machinery could force more masonry to collapse onto survivors.

Emergency workers, who have been toiling amid the stench of rotting corpses, were shattered by the death late Sunday of a female garment worker who had clung to life against the odds before being overwhelmed by a fire at the scene.

The tragedy has once again focused attention on poor safety conditions in the $20-billion (15-billion-euro) Bangladeshi garment industry, the world's second-biggest after China's.

Britain's Primark and Spain's Mango have confirmed that their products were made in the block. Italy's Benetton acknowledged having its clothes made in Rana Plaza recently, but claimed it was a "one-time order".

Primark and Canadian supermarket giant Loblaw said they would pay compensation to victims who worked for their suppliers.

"Our priorities are helping the victims and their families, and driving change to help prevent similar incidents in the future," Loblaw said.

Worried that Western firms could look elsewhere, manufacturers met representatives of at least 30 leading brand names such as Walmart, H&M and Gap on Monday in a bid to assure them about safety standards.

The meeting ended with an announcement that the manufacturers and buyers had agreed to form a joint panel to come up with a firm safety action plan.

Shahidullah Azim, of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the brands were told "that we're taking action to prevent a repeat of such tragedies" and urged "not to cancel orders and shipments".

"We need their help -- they are part of us," said Azim, whose organisation represents more than 4,500 factories.

Roger Hubert, the country vice president of Hong Kong-based Li and Fung, acknowledged that retailers were considering their futures in Bangladesh.

"Today, I believe, in most countries... the buyers are sitting together to consider whether or not they can still buy from Bangladesh. I think that is a fact. It might sound very harsh, but that's the reality," he told AFP.

Jenefa Jabbar, the regional social responsibilities director of US clothing chain JC Penney, said retailers wanted to see "a top-down approach... to address the fire safety and building safety issues".

A fire at another factory last November in the industrial hub of Ashulia, where clothing for the likes of Walmart was being made, killed 111 people.

The industry accounts for 80 percent of the country's exports and more than 40 percent of its industrial workforce.

A typical textile worker earns less than $40 a month, with most working around 10 hours a day, six days a week.

It is not known how many people are trapped in the rubble of the collapsed building. Hundreds of relatives remain at the scene, many clutching photos of their loved ones, but officials held out little hope.

The death of the female garment worker identified as Shannaz, whose courageous struggle became a symbol of hope, cast a deep pall over the rescue effort.

Firefighters were seen weeping after the widowed mother of one lost her battle for life when the fire broke out.

One of the leaders of the rescue operation said they would be "doing things very carefully" in case anyone else had managed to stay alive, but that they were "assuming that there is no survivor".

Seven people have so far been arrested over the disaster, including the overall owner of the complex, property tycoon Sohel Rana, who was detained as he attempted to cross into India and was flown back to Dhaka.

Among the others facing charges of causing "death by negligence" are two engineers who are alleged to have given the building the all-clear on Tuesday night after large cracks were found in the walls.