Financial crunch: PBC proposes levy of tax on mobile phone calls | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

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Financial crunch: PBC proposes levy of tax on mobile phone calls

Amir Wasim

The members were of the view that almost all mobile phones now had inbuilt radio and, therefore, they should be charged for it.

ISLAMABAD: Officials of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), commonly known as Radio Pakistan, on Thursday came up with a proposal to levy a “broadcast cess” on mobile phone users to generate funds for the state-run institution. And to their own surprise, they received applause from elected representatives, Dawn has learnt.

The proposal was floated by the head of the PBC, Mr Murtaza Solangi, during a briefing on the performance of his institution to members of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on information and broadcasting, headed by Belum Hasnain of PPP.

The committee members – belonging to almost all parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz — were so impressed with the idea that they converted the DG’s proposals into their own recommendation for the ministry of finance to make it a part of the next budget.

As if this were not enough, PML-N MNA Shakil Awan came up with a suggestion that a heavy cess should be levied on sale of all categories of motor vehicles to help the PBC become self-reliant.

It was only Bushra Rehman of the PML-Q who opposed the idea of levying tax on cell phone users, saying that the facility was being used by the poor and middle class people who were already under extreme financial burden.

However, some members said that mobile phone was being used as source of entertainment by a large number of people who even spent the whole night in making calls and chatting on phones and they should be taxed.

The committee’s chairperson Belum Hasnain claimed that all members had unanimously recommended to the ministry of finance to consider the proposals of levying taxes on mobile phones and cars in an effort to save the PBC.

The committee “endorsed” the proposals of the PBC chief and recommended that “a broadcast cess may be levied at a rate of two per cent on users of mobile phones so that estimated Rs4.5 billion per year could be collected for the PBC”, the committee’s chairperson said.

Moreover, Ms Hasnain said the committee had also recommended that a “one-time broadcast cess at the rate of Rs4,000 per unit be levied on sale of all categories of motor vehicles through which an estimated amount of Rs896 million could be collected by the PBC”.

In reply to an observation that it was unjustified to tax the poor, she said it did not mean that they should watch helplessly while state-run institution goes broke. Then she went on the defensive, saying that the committee had only prepared its recommendations and it was up to the government and parliament to make a final decision on it.

According to sources, the PBC chief told the committee that a majority of radio transmitters were not functioning and that the corporation did not have resources even to pay salaries and pensions of its employees. He said the PBC needed Rs2 billion only to pay to its employees.

On this occasion, information secretary Taimoor Azmat said that the government was not in a position to provide financial support to the PBC which, according to him, needed to explore other sources of income to become self-reliant.

The meeting was also attended for some time by Minister for Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, who assured the committee that the government would make every effort to help the PBC overcome its financial crisis.

Those who attended the meeting included Shamshad Sattar Bachani, Pir Aftab Shah Jilani, Mahboobullah Jan, Nuzhat Sadiq and Shakil Awan of the PML-N.

Source: Dawn