New policy: Pakistan offers loans, tax exemptions to boost local shipping companies

Pakistani vessels pass by container ships being loaded with cargo at the port of Karachi, Sept.8, 2003. (AFP/File)
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Updated 08 August 2020

New policy: Pakistan offers loans, tax exemptions to boost local shipping companies

  • The policy offers tax incentives, low-cost financing to revive the country’s shipping industry
  • Private companies demand open competition for import of petroleum cargo instead of monopolizing it through state-owned corporation

KARACHI: Pakistan’s new shipping policy aims to reduce $5 billion freight bill that the country pays to foreign companies to transport import and export cargoes, officials announced on Friday. 

Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi and Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood unveiled the amended shipping policy in Islamabad that offers incentives to the country’s own vessels by provided them “priority berthing at all Pakistani ports.” 

“This is business-friendly policy,” Zaidi said, adding that it would reduce the freight bill Pakistan paid annually. 

The country nationalized its industries in the 1970s, including the shipping industry by merging all companies with the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC). Experts believe that the industry could not be revived after that policy decision. 

“This industry is vital since it operates during emergencies and high risk situation as well as peace time. As we rely on international shipping lines for our trade, we lose foreign exchange which can be saved if we develop our own local shipping industry,” said Zaidi. “It is the need of the hour to revive this industry since we lag way behind our regional competitors like Bangladesh.” 

Abdul Razak Dawood, Pakistan’s de facto commerce minister, hoped that local entrepreneurs would view this as an opportunity and benefit from it. 

“The State Bank of Pakistan will extend loans at three percent markup rate for buying vessels and registering them in the country,” Mahmood Maulvi, adviser to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, told Arab News. “Refinance will be allowed for purchase of ships and vessels.” 

Under the policy, new shipping companies would be exempted from federal taxes until 2030. 

“No federal taxes (direct and indirect) shall be levied to the detriment of Pakistan Resident Ship Owning companies during the exemption period,” the policy document seen by Arab News read. 

However, the transportation of hydrocarbon cargoes will be the sole responsibility of PNSC. 

The shipping sector stakeholders termed the policy as a “good initiative” and called for its implementation in letter and spirit. 

“It is good that the government has realized that Pakistan pays $5 billion of freight bill to foreign shipping companies,” Aasim Siddiqui, chairman of All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) told Arab News. “Our association has been lobbying for the last three years for incentives to be given to private sector since we have the potential to create more employment opportunities by attracting the cargo that is transported by foreign vessels.” 

“But it is not enough to release a focused policy,” he continued. “We also need a robust legal framework for its implementation since an oversight of these incentives is also needed. Besides, it is very important to monitor the policy in consultation with the stakeholders.” 

He demanded that instead of monopolizing the import of petroleum products through the PNSC, the government should invite bids from the private sector. 

“Maybe private companies can give you better rates than the PNSC,” he added. 

PM Khan writes to Facebook’s Zuckerberg, appeals for ban on Islamophobic content

Updated 25 October 2020

PM Khan writes to Facebook’s Zuckerberg, appeals for ban on Islamophobic content

  • This month, Facebook banned any posts that denied or distorted the Holocaust
  • The social media giant's hate speech policy prohibits Islamophobic content

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday, in an impassioned appeal to ban the vilification of Islam and Muslims on the social media platform, akin to the Facebook ban on posts that deny the Holocaust, according to a press release.
Earlier on Sunday, Khan had denounced French President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘encouragement of Islamophobia’ in a series of tweets, and said Macron was ‘deliberately provoking’ Muslims.
Khan’s denouncement came in the wake of comments from the French leader last week in which he vowed not to ‘give up cartoons’ depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and stated ‘Islamists want our future.’
“I appreciate your taking the step to rightly ban any posting that criticizes or questions the Holocaust,” Khan wrote to Zuckerberg, his message peppered with examples of recent anti-Muslim laws and statements from the Indian and French governments.
“Given the rampant abuse and vilification of Muslims on social media platforms, I would ask you to place a similar ban on Islamophobia and hate against Islam for Facebook that you have put in place for the Holocaust.”

On Oct 12., a message from the Vice President of Facebook’s content policy said the social media giant’s hate speech policy had been updated to ban any denials or distortions of the Holocaust-- the mass Nazi pogrom of the Jews of Germany and Europe.
“We have banned more than 250 white supremacist organizations and updated our policies to address militia groups and QAnon. We also routinely ban other individuals and organizations globally, and we took down 22.5 million pieces of hate speech from our platform in the second quarter of this year,” the VP’s message reads on Facebook’s official website.
Facebook’s rules on hate speech, defined as any “direct attack on people” based on characteristics like religion or sexuality, already prohibit Islamophobic content.
“The message of hate must be banned in total-- one cannot send a message that while hate messages against some are unacceptable, they are acceptable against others,” Khan wrote.
“We have seen how marginalization inevitably leads to extremism-- something the world does not need.”