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    ACCI, finance ministry bicker over import duty

    KABUL (PAN): The Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) chief on Thursday said trade goods worth $4 billion were imported last year, but there was no record of the taxes paid.

    In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, Mohammad Qurban Haqjo, said there was a huge difference between ACCI and finance ministry's statistics on last year's imports into the landlocked country.

    Based on the ministry statistics, imports in 2010 amounted to $6 billion, but the information received by the ACCI put the goods value at $10 billion.

    Afghan traders mostly import goods from Pakistan, Iran and Russia. Last year's imports from Pakistan stood at $1.5 billion, but the finance ministry put their value at $550 million.

    Imports from Iran amounted to $1.3 billion, but the ministry calculated them at $329 million only, Haqjo said. Similarly, imports from Russia accounted for $190m, but the ministry had shown their value at $129m, he explained.

    The ACCI chief executive also alleged anomalies in the imports at the customs department. "For example, computers were taxed as other inexpensive items," he claimed.

    Haqjo urged the government to appoint skilled people to the department to prevent such irregularities and boost the country's revenue. He asked how $4 billion imports could be exempted from taxes and who received the duty.

    Aziz Shams, the finance ministry spokesman, supported the ministry's statistics, saying the ACCI chief's remarks were incorrect. But he did not rule out the possibility that the goods might have been smuggled to the country and taxes thus evaded.

    For his part, Haqjo acknowledged an increase of 12 percent in taxes on imports. Some taxes were received from traders, but there was no record, he reiterated. He believed such practices increased prices and shattered public confidence in the government.

    He accused MPs, ministers and other high-ranking officials of pocketing the huge amount of money received in taxes.

    mrh/ma/mud



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