The budget is said to be business-friendly due to tax cuts in various sectors, but none of it applies to us. We got absolutely nothing out of this budget. None of the fair demands we made were kept in the budget, which has disappointed us.
One of the ways in which the printing industry could survive amid the pandemic was by the printing the primary and secondary level textbooks. We have the capacity to do it, but the government is printing and importing those books from India.
Indian exporters do not have to pay any duty or advance income tax in this case. On the contrary they get assistance from the Indian government in return for exports. But we have to pay income tax in advance.
We hoped that there would be some measures in the proposed budget to keep us afloat amid the pandemic by stopping the import of textbooks, but that did not happen. We requested at least to eliminate the discrimination against us compared those who export to Bangladesh, but it was not kept. In order to create a level playing field with the Indian exporters, we sought the facility of duty-free import of raw materials including paper, but did not get it.
We are very disappointed that despite our full capacity, the government continues to benefit foreigners without benefiting from the domestic industry.
Lots of "art cards" are used in the packaging industry, which is not produced in the country. We cannot even import them because the duty is too high. Some industrial factories are importing these art cards without paying any duty under a bonded warehouse facility and selling it to us in the open market at 10-20% profit. These are not available in the market when the customs officials suddenly become more active in this regard.
Pharmaceutical companies sign contract with us for two to three years for the packaging made of art cards. But, we cannot supply the packets if the art cards suddenly become unavailable in the market or if its price goes up. So, we proposed that the authority gives us the opportunity to import art cards by imposing maximum 20% import duty, but that opportunity was not given in the budget.
We have to pay 60% duty on import of paper, but there is no duty for importing printed papers. Using this facility, some EPZ companies bring cartons from India. As a result, the government is losing revenue and employment in the domestic printing industry is declining. We have been demanding for a long time to stop this illegal facility, but we are disappointed in this case too.
The small printing industries have not received any loans from the incentives announced earlier for the SME sector, because they do not have any assets to keep as security for a loan. We requested the authority to provide Tk5 lakh loans to the small companies against their machinery worth Tk10-15 lakh. We have also requested the SME Foundation, but still we did not get the loan facility.
Tofayal Khan is an adviser at the Printing Industries Association of Bangladesh