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EPZ infrastructure cess withdrawn

KARACHI (February 25 2004): The Sindh Cabinet, which met here on Tuesday, decided to withdraw 0.5 percent infrastructure cess from the Export Processing Zone, reduce stamp duty from 4 percent aggregate to one percent aggregate, approved rebate on advance payment of property tax from 5 percent to 30 percent, and fixed wheat procurement target at 600,000 maunds at Rs 350 per maund. Sindh Chief Minister Ali Mohammed Mahar was in the chair.

Mehtab Akber Rashdi, provincial secretary information, while briefing the press said that the cabinet was of the view that its decisions would be in the greater interest of the people and supportive of economic activities in the province.

The cabinet had a ten-point agenda to dispose of but only three major issues could be taken up and the rest of the agenda was left to be discussed in the next meeting.

INFRASTRUCTURE CESS: The cabinet reviewed the impact of 0.5 percent infrastructure cess on the industrial units in the province and decided to withdraw it from the Export Processing Zone to provide relief and incentive to such units, which were contributing towards the national exports.

WHEAT: Wheat had been a hotly contested issue and people had feared its shortage in the province. The cabinet decided to begin wheat procurement in the first week of March instead of beginning it from April 1.

The procurement of wheat usually begins in the first week of April and continues till June 30.

The government has decided to begin procurement of wheat early by the first week of March and continue it ill June 30.

The target for wheat procurement has been fixed at 600,000 maunds at a price of Rs 350 per maund.

The provincial requirement of wheat is 42 million maunds per year. In case of shortage of wheat in the province, the provincial secretary said, Sindh would either purchase the commodity from Punjab or import it.

SINDH SEED CORPORATION: While considering a proposal for winding up Sindh Seed Corporation the cabinet appreciated the role of those who were keenly involved in providing quality seeds to agriculturists and decided to defer a hasty decision regarding SSC winding up.

The cabinet set up a review committee to examine the pros and cons of Sindh Seed Corporation merger with the agriculture department or its winding up as desired by Asian Development Bank as a condition of a loan it extended to Sindh Agriculture department.

The committee will be headed by provincial Agriculture Minister Arif Mustafa Jatoi with Dr Manzoor Panhwar, Aijaz Ali Shah Shirazi and Dr Ghulam Arbab Rahim as members

PROPERTY TAX: On the question of property tax the cabinet decided to extend relief to prompt payers of taxes. To provide incentives to tax payers, increase tax collection and encourage more property owners to pay taxes the Excise and Taxation Minister Rauf Siddiqui came up with a proposal of rebate on advance payment of property tax.

On the recommendations of the Excise and Taxation Department, the information secretary said, the cabinet had decide to give 5 percent rebate (on annual tax) on payment of advance tax for two years, 10 percent rebate on payment of advance tax for three years, 20 percent rebate on payment of tax for five years and 30 percent rebate on payment of advance tax for ten years. The facility of rebate will be available throughout the province.

Those who are willing to avail these incentives will have to pay taxes before August 31. The decision would be effective with immediate effect.

Rashdi said that a notification in this connection was being prepared and would be issued soon.

The Excise Minister also submitted another proposal for a similar relief for 100 yards plots having cottage industries.

The cabinet supported the proposal but referred it to Law Department for working out its legal details.

A committee headed by Chief Secretary was set up for the purpose.

STAMP DUTY: Rashdi said that stamp duty which had been a discouraging factor for those who wanted to keep their property transactions clean. The reduction in stamp duty would bring substantial reduction in tax evasion and discourage people from transferring their properties through power of attorney or in banami.

She said that the cabinet despite resistance form the BoR decided to bring stamp duty from aggregate 4 percent (three percent stamp duty and one percent registration charges) to aggregate one percent.

She said that this decision was in agreement with the National Housing Plan 2001 wherein the Sindh government was asked to reduce stamp duty to one percent.

The cabinet allayed all fears of the BoR that the reduction would neither help increase revenue nor bring more transactions on record and observed that the reduction in the stamp duty would encourage people to record their transactions.

The cabinet observed that due to exorbitant charges of 4 percent stamp duty there were misdeclarations of property prices and a large number of transactions were not recorded.

The decision will be effective soon as a notification is being issued shortly.

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