The Consul’s Special Correspondent Farhan Khan interviewed Muhammad Azhar Hussain, Director Industries on a range of issues regarding the working of the industrial sector, including online business registrations, Qeemat app and fluctuating prices of consumer goods.
Excerpts from the interview are reproduced below:
Q1: The Government started online firm Registration in 2018. What has been public response to it?
Ans. This hallmark project was first started in 2018 for online firm registration in Lahore, because in an office one has to use infrastructure, vehicles, etc. Besides there were issues red tapism. When we initially started from Lahore, we gave options of both walk-in and online registration. As of today we have registered more than 25,000 business firms through this online portal. In fact our average response time from the application filing to the certificate of approval’s issuance is 15 hours and 20 minutes. We have a counter with it to measure the time it takes. If the average goes down it’s an indication that we take time in processing it and we need to improve. After we had started, “Ease of knowing Business” which is a worldwide organization, published their study for 2019 that showed that Pakistan had moved up 28 notches, which was an achievement since it was the first time we moved this up.
We then replicated this program all over Punjab in the financial year 2021-22. Ever since then, all business firms in Punjab are registered online. Wherever one is, they can file an application through the link, and then you’re alerted through a message that your application has been received. You’re alerted about all the steps through messages e.g. your application has been received, your certificate has been made, and they only need to come to the office to collect it.
Q2. How user friendly is this application?
Q3. Is this a one-step registration, or are there additional steps?
Ans. It is a one-step registration, unless there are legal hurdles in the documents. In that case, an auto generated message alerts the applicant that an observation has been made and that an error needs to be corrected. And once this all has been done, a message eventually alerts them about the final outcome.
- What is the “Qeemat” app, and how does it facilitate the consumers?
Ans. Well, no doubt after the pandemic the prices have spiked worldwide, especially in the third world countries. In situations like this, governments try and focus on giving their people facilities, for the best prices. So the industries department developed the “Qeemat” app, along with the Punjab Information Technology Board. The app shows the fixed prices of a certain item, and it’s day to day changing. If you’re in Lahore buying onions it’s a set price all over Lahore. But then there are further classifications in the onions; the highest quality, medium quality, and the low quality. Their prices not only have been marked but we’ve also added guidelines to help the user in distinguishing between different classifications, so nobody could cheat them into buying a lesser quality thing for a higher price. l give you an example: if a single piece is more than 110 grams it’s the highest quality, if a single piece is more than 80 grams it’s medium quality and a single piece which is less than 80 grams is the low quality onion. We have given an interface that the public could use the app to file a complaint against a shop. Like if a consumer goes to the shop and asks the shopkeeper for a rate list and they say we don’t have it, they use the Qeemat app to see the rate list and use the interface to launch a complaint. The concerned magistrate would get the complaint and would take appropriate action and respond to the person complaining on the app regarding the action taken.
The public should start using this app to be safe themselves from fraud. You can find all essentialities including meats, lentils, vegetables, milk, fruits etc. and all the government rates are on the Qeemat app.
- Roti (Pakistani flat bread) is a necessity and different tandoors (clay oven) charge different prices. What is being done to improve this situation?
Ans. The government of Punjab has given a huge subsidy of 200 billion rupees on whole wheat, and a bag that used to cost PKR 1320, is now being provided at PKR 980. We want the public to get Rotis and Naans (Pakistani flatbreads) at the most viable prices, so we calculated the costs with the food department and came to the conclusion that, the Roti that was being sold for PKR 12 cost PKR 10 and the Naan (Pakistani flatbread with roasted sesame seeds) which was being sold for PKR 18 cost PKR 15. As a result of us taking action against this, the Naan association went to court saying this was unfair to them. The case ended today, with the verdict in our favor and now the prices have been fixed, and our magistrates are imposing them. A 100 gram roti is PKR 10, and a Naan that is 120 gram is PKR 15. We would request that if the public finds that the prices are not being followed, and court order are being violated, they should file a complaint through the Qeemat app on their phones. It is a quick and simple process and we can take immediate action.