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Confusion over flood tax

zardari tax meetingKARACHI: A proposal to impose a one-time flood tax on immovable property was discussed on Monday at a high-level meeting presided over by President Asif Zardari amid reports that the Sindh government has already approved the move despite opposition from coalition partner Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

Some TV channels quoted PPP Information Secretary Fauzia Wahahb as saying that the Sindh government had approved the flood tax as a one-time measure in the province.

But President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said that no such decision had been taken at the meeting on Monday. He also said that the president had given no directive to the provincial government on the matter.

He said that Mr Zardari had always been saying that “our well-to-do people have to contribute by way of a one-time flood tax. He has advised provincial governments and the federal government to give it a thought”.

Mr Babar, however, said that the president had not issued any directive on the issue and the decision would have to be taken by the provincial and federal governments.

Four presentations were made to the president at the meeting. One pertained to the rabi crop and another dealt with the irrigation system.

The P&D department briefed the president on the strategy being pursued by it for reconstruction of infrastructure in the province. The finance department gave a briefing on how funds would be mobilised and the levy of flood tax.

Meanwhile, Sindh Health Minister Dr Saghir Ahmed and Youth Affairs Minister Faisal Sabzwari, both of the MQM, said that their party had not been taken into confidence over the issue of flood tax.

Chief Minister’s Adviser on Planning and Development Dr Kaiser Bengali said that several proposals had been discussed, but no decision had been taken.

He said that first of all the cabinet would have to take a decision for making a law in this regard and the matter then would be discussed in the assembly. He said the president had advised the provincial chief minister to take coalition partners into confidence on the matter.

Meanwhile, President Zardari asked the Sindh government on Monday to consider reserving a one kilometer belt on the katcha side of the Indus River bund for afforestation to protect the embankment from erosion.

He also asked the government to consider procuring agricultural and earth-moving machinery at economical rates from international sources and placing them under one government department for post-flood rehabilitation of agricultural assets.

The president also asked federal government officials to pursue with the British government a proposal to upgrade the Sukkur Barrage which was built by the British in 1932.

He said he had already raised the issue with British leaders during his meetings with them and they had responded positively to the suggestion.

The president also advised the government to seek Chinese help in exploring new ways of preventing destruction of infrastructure, like embankments and dykes, during floods.

He made the suggestion at two meetings in Bilawal House to review the damage caused to agriculture, housing and infrastructure in Sindh and Balochistan and measures taken for their rehabilitation.

Mr Babar told reporters that the president had also asked the provincial government to encourage sunflower cultivation in flood-affected districts of Sindh and to launch a campaign to educate growers about benefits of sunflower cultivation in the post-flood scenario and to provide them incentives in the form of free seed and fertiliser.

The meeting was briefed on measures taken to help farmers in flood-affected areas for wheat sowing during the rabi season.

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