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News Clips 24 May, 2013

[ Obtaining GSP Plus status a challenge for new government: Prgmea ]
[ FPCCI rejects Trade Organization Rules ]
[ China's cotton reserve is 63% of world's total ]
[ Bangladesh factory collapse probe uncovers abuses ]

Obtaining GSP Plus status a challenge for new government: Prgmea   [ top ]

BUSINESS RECORDER, Recorder Report, May 23, 2013
Pakistan Ready-made Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (Prgmea) said on Wednesday that the PML-N government should make it a top priority for obtaining Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Plus status for Pakistan to strengthen the country economically, besides improving foreign exchange.

Prgmea Central Chairman Sajid Salim Minhas, while felicitating the PML-N leadership on massive victory in the general elections, observed that obtaining GSP Plus status for Pakistan is a challenge for the new government, besides overcoming energy crisis and putting value-added textile industry on track by working on a war footing. He also expressed the hope that the new government would take energy shortage as a challenge, enabling the industry to perform at optimum level, besides attracting new investment and increasing exports.

The hopes are on very high notes and country has been in need of serious and talented leadership that can resolve energy crisis and trigger economic revival for a long-time, he said. He reposed full confidence in new leadership and said that PML-N had the ability to face challenges and take Pakistan towards economic prosperity.

He demanded the new government to hire competent lawyers to plead Pakistan's case in the European Union (EU) for Generalised System of Preferences, as Pakistan would get the status once the legal formalities are completed. Now the ball is in the court of Pakistan to effectively negotiate with EU to obtain GSP plus in 2014, he said and added that it is unfortunate that we still have to submit at least five more progress reports for our application to be processed by the EU.

FPCCI rejects Trade Organization Rules    [ top ]

THE NEWS, Correspondent Report, May 23, 2013
KARACHI: The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce ad Industry (FPCCI) has rejected the Trade Organization Rules (TOR) 2013, under which the directorate general of trade organizations has been given vast discretionary powers to exploit trade bodies.

The TOR 2013 came under discussion at the executive committee meeting of the FPCCI held recently at the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) with Zubair Ahmed Malik, president of the FPCCI, in the chair.

The participants also demanded that the enforcement of TOR 2013 should be immediately stopped and, in the meantime, it should be redrafted in consultation with the representatives of the FPCCI.

In this respect, some members referring to the Bhurban Declaration passed in the Bhurban Business Convention organised by the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry recalled that the declaration has outright rejected the TOO 2013 and TOR 2013.

The meeting was also informed that TOO 2013 and TOR 2013 is nowhere in the world, except Pakistan and Bangladesh. The meeting inter-alia, also discussed Trade Organizations Ordinance (TOO), 2013 and Trade Organization Rules (TOR), 2013; considered the FPCCI proposals for the upcoming Federal Budget 2013-14 and current economic issues in the backdrop of protracted power outages, shortage of gas and deteriorating law and order situation.

The business community was of the view that the trade bodies are being run on the revenue being generated by the trade bodies themselves. There is no financial grant from the government for the support to trade bodies.

They said that in the presence of the companies’ laws of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), there is no need of the DGTO office or of TOR.

It was also decided in the meeting that the FPCCI will form a committee to review the TOR 2013 and make necessary recommendations for incorporation in it.

A comprehensive presentation on the FPCCI’s budget proposals, formulated on the basis of the recommendations received by the FPCCI from its member trade bodies, was made in the meeting, which was highly appreciated by the members.

The FPCCI proposals stressed that the tax must be equitable and fair between different classes of the society and the sectors of economy, including agriculture, convenience of taxpayers should be focused, levy of tax at minimum rates for a larger coverage as tax rate is inversely proportional to the taxpayers, tax law must be simple and unambiguous to make a taxpayer understand about his tax liability well in advance and reversal of present ratio of direct (33 percent) to indirect tax (67 percent).

It also contains the proposals on minimising huge fiscal deficit, overcome power and gas crises, rooting out of corruption and introducing the element of accountability and good governance, curtailing the menace of smuggling and under-invoicing, broadening the tax base, rationalisation of tax rates, improvement in the tax-to-GDP ratio, which is lowest in the region, etc.

The house urged the incoming Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and the FBR chairman to give due consideration to the FPCCI proposals on the Federal Budget 2013-14 as its measures have a direct impact on trade and industry.

It was also decided that a pre-budget meeting may be held with the FBR chairman to advocate the FPCCI point of view for incorporation in the federal budget.

The chair informed that the FPCCI role is confined only to present budgetary proposals and identify its point of view on the existing harsh and irritant provisions of the tax laws; however, it is not a regulator / authority to implement them.

The house expressed concerns over the existing power crisis, gas outage, and deteriorating law and order situation.

China's cotton reserve is 63% of world's total   [ top ]

CHAINA DAILY, Zhou Siyu, May 23, 2013
China's cotton reserves were estimated to stand at 5,820 bales this year, accounting for 63 percent of the world's total, the United States Department of Agriculture said in a report.

A bale is a standard unit of measurement for cotton and is equivalent to approximately 226 kg.

The government admitted to having “a high level of reserves” but did not divulge the exact figure.

The USDA also estimated that global cotton consumption will grow by 2 percent this year, the third consecutive year for increased consumption. Consumption in China, India and Pakistan will account for 70 percent of the world's total, the USDA said.

Bangladesh factory collapse probe uncovers abuses   [ top ]

BBC NEWS, May 23, 2013
A Bangladesh government report into the collapse of a multi-storey factory building, which killed more than 1,100, has uncovered a series of violations.

The report said the building had been constructed with sub-standard materials on unsuitable land.

It also recommended life sentences for the building's owner and the owners of five garment factories operating there.

The Rana Plaza collapse on 24 April is one of the world's worst industrial disasters and sparked global outrage.

It highlighted working conditions, low wages and safety standards in the country's garment sector. In the wake of the disaster, there have been a series of angry protests by workers in the garment industry.

On Thursday, thousands of garment workers took to the streets in Ashulia, the industrial belt near Dhaka, demanding wage increases and other benefits. Some vehicles were attacked during the protest.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufactures and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said they had shut down 21 factories to avoid further unrest.

'Poor construction'

The Rana Plaza disaster prompted the government to introduce some reforms and some international retailers have also proposed an accord to improve safety conditions in Bangladesh.

The owner of the building, Mohammad Sohel Rana, was arrested last month as were the owners of factories inside the building. Mr Rana has made no public comment about the incident. His father and uncle have also been arrested and no members of his family have come forward with a statement.

The man in charge of the investigation, Mainuddin Khandker, told BBC Bangla on Wednesday that "extremely poor" construction materials were used in the building and said the report identified five causes of the collapse.

"A portion of the building was also constructed on land which had been a body of water before and was filled with rubbish," he told the Associated Press news agency.

The 400-page report was submitted to the government on Wednesday. It also made several recommendations. As well as life sentences for those responsible for the collapse these included:

• Confiscating the land on which the factory had been built

• Providing financial support to the families of the workers who died and who were injured

• Forming a department specifically to deal with this sector of the garment industry to prevent a repeat of such incidents

The authorities say 1,130 people died, about 2,500 people were injured in the accident and 2,437 people were rescued.

On 10 May a woman was pulled alive from the rubble, 17 days after the collapse. It was a glimmer of hope for rescue workers after weeks of hauling bodies out of the ruins but the authorities called off the rescue just three days later.

Just a day before the collapse, the building was briefly evacuated when cracks appeared in the walls. However, workers were later allowed back in or told to return by the factory owners.

Bangladesh has one of the largest garment industries in the world. Some of the clothes produced in the Rana Plaza building were made for Western retailers.