LAHORE - One can easily gauge the living standard of people in Punjab from the transport available to them, as one ambulance is fixed to provide emergency services to more than 4000 citizens, statistics available with The Nation have revealed.

Similarly in a province where more than 80 percent population depends on agriculture, 114.4 people have one tractor to play their role in agriculture activities, just like one auto rickshaw to cater the transport needs of more than 276 people. One car is available to more than 67 people and 8.5 persons possess one motorbike in the province, said the data collected through a recently carried out survey.

Talking to The Nation, a senior officer of Excise and Taxation (E&T) said that 13.40 million vehicles including 1.34 million cars are running on the roads of Punjab with 90 percent load being registered with provincial headquarters. This number is increasing up to 70000 cars annually but there is no planning of Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency (TEPA) to cater this heavy load of traffic in future, he said, adding that rest of the 10 percent vehicles is registered with other districts of Punjab.

The purchase of new cars was boosted in the year 2005-6 during the rule of former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf. The bank leasing was in full swing and interest rate of different banks on car finance was from seven to eight present due to which people bought luxury cars. However, after the year 2006-7 when interest rate was increased, this trend came down, the excise officer maintained.

A sociologist Mr Hassan said that increase in number of registration of vehicles never depicts better standard of life of the people since more than 50 percent population of Pakistan is reportedly leading life below poverty line. Although people are getting motorbikes, cell phones and cars on lease and their life appears to be luxurious, they are in fact making their lives more problematic with such leasing and installment schemes, he added.

Another E&T officer seeking anonymity said that the graph of registration of vehicles was highest in the years 2005-6. After that 60 to 70 thousands cars are being registered every year. This year, he said, 10000 yellow cabs and imported cars are being registered.

He feared that number of luxury cars would decrease in Punjab in near future because of heavy taxes being imposed by Punjab government. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has imposed withholding tax, while the Punjab government has also imposed luxury tax, he added.

“We have requested Punjab government not to impose Luxury tax but to no avail,” the E&T officer maintained. He was of the view that most of luxury vehicles were being shifted to Islamabad since there was minimum tax on luxury vehicles. Similarly ratio of token tax on cars and heavy vehicles was higher in Punjab than that of any other province of the country due to which heavy vehicles were being shifted to other provinces for registration.