KABUL (Pajhwok): The High Economic Council’s decision on cutting tariffs on marble exports has not been implemented for more than a year and a half.
Currently, the export duty on marbles and travertine is 20 percent. In solar year 1397, the council decided to reduce the export duty to one percent. A copy of the HEC decision is available to Pajhwok Afghan News.
“The High Economic Council has decided the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum will define a clear technical criterion for the processing and export of marbles and cutting tariffs to one percent in coordination with the Ministry of Finance.
“Determining the price of marble products is the responsibility of MoMP and Chamber of Commerce and Industry,” says the HEC document.
A decision only on paper
Mohammad Asif Stanakzai, owner of a domestic company named Natural Stones, told Pajhwok he had invested 15 million USD in processing and exporting marbles since the solar year 1393.
He said President Ashraf Ghani had encouraged the MoMP and the chamber of commerce to help his company in exporting marbles.
For the first time this year, the Natural Stone firm exported 1,879 square metres of marble (115 tonnes) in five containers to Azerbaijan via the Aqina port in Faryab province.
He added as it was the company’s first exports, the customs office in Aqina port did not charge him any duty. The office charged him 450 afghanis per vehicle.
He explained the Aqina customs office contacted his company three months later, asking it to pay 30 percent duty on the five containers of marbles exported to Azerbaijan.
Under the law passed HEC, the export tariff on such stones was 20 percent and the import duty 30 percent, Stanikzai said.
According to him, custom officials have been demanding 30 percent duty on the exported stone containers. The company’s 10 containers containing 3,500 square metres marbles have been stopped at the Aqina port.
Stanikzai grumbled the vehicles had not been referred to the customs because they could not pay a higher duty. Later, the customs office demanded 725,000 afghanis for the previous exports.
Stanikzai showed Pajhwok a letter from the Aqina customs office to Customs and Revenue Department: The letter reads: “The National Stone Company has exported Afghan-processed marbles in five containers to Azerbaijan through the port.”
Later on, a representative of this firm made and printed a declaration inadvertently in accordance with the procedures of the 002 Page — which is exempted from custom duties.
“With the exception of minerals, all domestic products are printed on the 002 Page and then documents of the company are assessed and subjected to 000 Page and the money (725,292 afs) is obtainable from the five declaration,”
The letter said that the custom office had summoned Eng. Rahimuddin — a representative of the company, who promised paying the amount. But he has not returned so far despite repeated contacts.
About 10 other marble-laden containers, the custom office said that no export container had arrived from the certain company so far.
But Stanikzai said that when the five marble-laden vehicles were being exported to Azerbaijan, a worker of the Natural Stone Company had guaranteed that the stones were neither smuggled nor illegal and the company had not guaranteed payment.
He was wonder on what basis the customs was demanding 700,000 afghanis because if 30 percent duty was calculated so it would be 659,000 afghanis and 20 percent would be 439,000 afs.
He added: “We pay 35 to 40 percent tariff in Azerbaijan and two to three pay in other places after Aqina all these tariffs equals to around 80 percent so no company can continue its export in such situation.”
Stankzai said several Uzbekistani companies had offered the Natural Stone Company contracts for the purchase of marbles but the firm was unable to do so due to high tariffs.
He commended the HEC decision on the reduction of the export duty as a giant towards jacking in marble exports. He criticised the custom offices for non-implementation of the decision.
HEC decision: 19 months on
Ihsanullah Kamawal, acting director of customs and technical affairs at MoF, said the High Economic Council had tasked the MoMP in March 2019 to draw up a plan for cutting the tariff and evolving a mechanism and hand it over to MoF for compliance.
Shamroz Khan Masjidi, spokesman for MoF, confirmed receiving the plan from MoMP three days back. He vowed to take measures in this regard in coordination with MoMP as soon as possible.
Abdul Qader Mustafa, spokesman for MoMP, was asked why the plan’s implementation took such a long time. He replied: “I cannot say why it is not being implemented. It is an example of why peace is eluding the country or why the war is refusing to go away.”
He insisted MoMP was striving for boosting exports and reducing tariffs. The issue would be resolved soon with the cooperation of the Finance Ministry.
Saifur Rahman Saihoon, an economist, believed the draft should not have been delayed and relevant organs should have discharged their responsibility for implementing the decision.
He reckoned Afghanistan’s annual exports would double from $5 billion to $10 billion if coordination among ministers improved.
But due to the lack of proper oversight and coordination among government agencies, the implementation of decisions and exports left a lot to be desired.
In the solar year 1397, Afghanistan exports stood at over one billion dollars and imports at seven billion dollars.
He blamed the biased attitude of certain ministries, their handover to acting heads, as well as a failure to execute decisions and laws for delays in affairs.
Afghanistan is said to have marble deposits worth 150 billion dollars. A US Geological Survey report estimates marble reserves in Afghanistan at 1.3 billion tonnes, with an approximate value of 150 billion dollars.
Under the High Economic Council the decision, around 133 firms have invested $60 million so far. Of them 25 firms are working on extraction of marble stones and the remaining 109 are processing them. Some other companies have been inactive due to a variety of issues.