LAHORE: Gems and Jewelry sector’s over 0.8 million workers are sitting idle without work in homes while the sector has suffered loss of over Rs2.50 billion during the COVID-19 lockdown.
These views were shared by All Pakistan Gem and Jewelers and Merchants Association vice chairman Muhammad Rizwan Akhtar Shamsi in an interview here the other day.
Following are some excerpts from his interview:
Q: How has the Gem and Jewelry sector of Pakistan been affected with the Covid-19 and the lockdown?
A: We have also been affected like the whole world. Gems and Jewelry sector has suffered loss of over Rs 2.50 billion during the COVID-19 lockdown while over 0.8 million workers are sitting idle without work in homes. Circulation of money is stopped and gold is directly interlinked with the currency. Purchasing power of the people has already been reduced before the COVID-19 and the lockdown has added fuel to the fire.
The artisan that makes gold jewelry also produces artificial jewelry including silver and other metals. The 0.8 million employees have their families and this way as per a roughly 4 to 5 million people alone in Punjab are facing hardships.
Q: What should the government do for you in this regard?
A: The government should open the businesses under certain SOPs and we are hopeful that the government will surely open the marketplaces on May 9. In this regard we are committed to act upon the guidance of the government which will enable us cope with the current deterioration of the business due to the COVID-19. We can assure that we will abide by the instruction as our gem and jewelry can be run with minimum staff strengthen.
Q: Tell us something about the continuous hike in the prices of the gold. Every commodity’s demand has fallen amid the COVID-19 even oil prices have licked the dust. Why the gold prices are climbing instead of falling?
A: Gold is something different from other commodities and its prices are climbing. An in crisis its demand tends to increase because everyone wants to save his assets in gold instead of currency. Whenever natural calamities or pandemics outbreak took place raw gold prices go up reason being that the people and countries feel themselves safe in gold. Lastly when there occurred the shortage of staple foods countries like the UK, China, India and other had to sell their gold reserve in tons to buy food. I forecast that this time again food crisis will take place due to the pandemic and countries will bring their gold reserves in the market to buy the food stuffs.
Q: What section of gem and jeweler’s business has been the most affected?
A: Gem and jewelry business has been badly affected at the level of finish products of all mettles including artificial jewelry. We have been facing tremendous decline in the demand of the finish goods and are forced to sell it on thrown away prices to increase sales. Due to the crisis the margins have declined unprecedentedly and it has become very had to survive.
Q: Now the government is going to open the lockdown what will be the pattern of your working so you can cope with the pandemic and run your business smoothly?
A: Obviously, if we are allowed to open the markets will act upon the government’s SOPs and run the while fighting with the pandemic. We have already started cleaning our markets, shops and reducing the seats in the show rooms and in the factories ensuring social distancing. Being the vice chairman of all Pakistan Gems and Jewelry Association I would suggest all the stakeholders to ensure cent percent implementation of the government SOPs. We have also planned to spray the metal and jewelry so there must not be any chance of infection by the products.
Q:How are you going to meet your rental expenses of your outlets and showrooms?
A:Where there is the government is involved we have requested the government to waive the rents of our outlets and the showroom and to a great extent the government has cooperated with us but where there are the premises are owned by the private landowners we are discussing the matters and looking for mid ways because for the private landlord are often depending upon the rental incomes and they cannot afford.