ACCI urges limits on imports to boost local economy
KABUL (Pajhwok): The country’s exports have increased by 30 percent in 2015 compared to 2012, while imports that remain 14 times higher than exports decreased by 12 percent, the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) said on Tuesday.
ACCI officials said Afghanistan’s exports level was not satisfactory and argued imports decreased because of poor economy condition of Afghans and the cut in international aid.
A ACCI report says Afghanistan exported goods worth $450 million in 2012 when imports stood at $9.6 billion. The exports in 2015 valued at $584 million when imports accounted for $7.9 billion, the report said.
Most of Afghanistan exports went to Pakistan, India, Turkey, Belgium, the US, Germany, Finland, Russia, England, UAE, Iran, Uzbekistan, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and some other countries.
ACCI deputy head, Khan Jan Alokozay, while opening a conference “Second National Export Conference” and Introduction of Top Exporters,” said statistics mentioned above showed there was a huge difference between Afghanistan exports and imports, calling it a matter of concern. “This situation shows our economy is in unconscious condition,” he said.
“Afghanistan still exports traditional goods which lack standard quality, thus Afghan exporters cannot compete in world’s major markets,” he said.
Alokozay said government’s negligence about investment and exports had resulted in lower quality and quantity of Afghanistan exports to foreign countries.
The government should pay serious attention to quality of local products, particularly agriculture products, he said.
A standard laboratory to determine quality of export materials should also be established, Alokozay said.
Despite the important role the private sector has been playing to improve packaging of export goods, the government does not discharge its responsibility in this regard and thus problems remain in the area, he said.
Exporters also still have problems in transit area and it is responsibility of the government to resolve them, the ACCI deputy head added.
He said the Pakistan government has increased its tax on Afghanistan fruit exports from 2,500 Pakistani rupees to Rs7,500, calling it a brutal decision against Afghan traders.
“The Afghan government is not benefitting from its commercial rights, while our neighbours get that benefit, that is why we are still in problems,” he said.
The private sector is also still forced into paying illegal taxes, an issue the government should pay attention, he said, adding Afghan airports that lack equipment for exports is another major problem.
“Until the government doesn’t benefit from its rights and doesn’t prevent illegal taxes taken by other people, the president could not fulfill his wish of increased exports instead of imports. It can’t be achieved by words but there is need for practical steps and honest heart and hands to prevent corruption, “he said.
The president had said ministries should use 15 percent of domestic products, but the order could not be enforced.
He asked the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA) to take urgent steps for facilitating entrepreneurs and reduce taxes on them, provide them land, electricity and other infrastructure in industrial parks.
Meanwhile, AISA chief Mohammad Qurban Haqju told the conference that the statistics on exports and imports were not accurate because there was smuggling involved in export and import of goods.
If the smuggled goods are considered, figures of exports and imports might double, he said, while expressing his concern over the difference between exports and imports.
The government had no programmes for increasing exports and decreasing imports over the past 14 years when billions of dollars arrived in Afghanistan in foreign aid, he said.
“Currently, foreign assistance has declined, joblessness has increased and the government of Afghanistan is facing economic challenges and the poverty level has jumped and investment has been withdrawn from Afghanistan”, he said.
“If we don’t take urgent steps for improvement of the economic condition, the economy would collapse by a further cut in aid to Afghanistan,” he said, adding encouraging entrepreneurship and increasing exports was important to get rid of the crisis. “So the government should pay attention.”
Haqju said the current techniques would not help increase exports and attention should be paid to quality, quantity and reducing prices. He said AISA would take urgent measures to resolve problems investors faced ranging from land to power, taxes and credits.
Due to a lack of land for investors in Kabul, they were willing to invest in provinces, he said, claiming to have contacted the Kabul governor to purchase land for investors in Kabul.
Commerce and Industries Minister Abdul Bari Rahman said his ministry would resolve traders’ problems especially of exporters in accordance with the recently established four-year strategy.
At the end of the gathering, nearly 30 exporters were awarded appreciation certificates for exporting highest level of goods. Abdul Raziq Sultanzada, the director of Sultanzada Ltd, was declared the best exporter of the country.
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