KARACHI: Chairman Businessmen Group (BMG) & former President KCCI Siraj Kassam Teli and President KCCI Agha Shahab Ahmed have appealed to the Prime Minister Imran Khan, Advisor Finance Hafeez Shaikh, Advisor Commerce & Investment Abdul Razak Dawood and Federal Minister for Industries & Production Hammad Azhar to announce across the board relief to all sectors of the economy instead of pursuing a pick & choose strategy which would never benefit the domestic economy or the people in the middle and lower income categories.
In a statement issued, Siraj Teli and Agha Shahab have emphasized that all the businesses and industries have been suffering losses and struggling to survive in business due to the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic. No industry or business have been spared by the impact of pandemic on economy, hence it is necessary to announce an across the board relief package for all sectors of trade and industry irrespective of size and level of business, so that businesses could survive unprecedented crisis and economic shocks. Recent relief packages announced by the SBP are limited mainly to export sectors or certain medium to large employers. Major part of the SMEs and nearly all domestic industries and businesses have not been benefited by any such package.
Most of the businesses and industry are finding it hard to stay solvent in the present circumstances and may be forced to declare bankruptcies if timely relief is not provided to them.
Chairman BMG Siraj Teli said, “As survival is the name of the game so the government should immediately extend relief at any cost without wasting time otherwise the businesses are going to become bankrupt and the economy would consequently sink. Support businesses now for survival and you (the government) can earn later.”
President KCCI Agha Shahab said, “The pick and choose strategy being pursued by the government is discriminatory towards domestic industry and trade, which is neither in the interest of businesses nor the economy so it has to be stopped and immediate relief must reach out to all categories and sectors of trade and industry rather than one or two selected sectors.”
Appreciating the relief provided in electricity bills for consumers below 300 units and also the reduction in petroleum prices, Siraj Teli and Agha Shahab said that the business and industrial community welcomes these moves but these were not adequate and there is a need to do more. In this regard, the government must announce further reduction in petroleum prices and also slash the electricity tariff, Sales Tax, Income Tax, Federal Excise Duty and Withholding Tax by 50 percent which would provide immediate relief to the entire nation. They further advised the government to bring down the interest rate to four percent in line with strategies adopted by the economies around the world where the interest rates have been slashed down to zero and even negative in some cases. They said that reduction in policy rate in bits and pieces is not enough to provide much needed stimulus to the economy hence, it is necessary to significantly reduce the interest rate in one go to 4 percent to help businesses sail through the unprecedented crisis. “All these measures would provide some breathing space to industries by bringing down the cost of doing business which is the need of the hour as these will provide much needed cash flow and help to avoid layoffs which have already started taking place.”
While referring to relief measures given to some sectors and businesses, they opined that it is not certain that the government was going to get the expected returns from these sectors in the ongoing extremely critical situation in which every single business from a small trader to leading industrialist has his survival at stake so the government has to stop focusing on revenue generation and extend relief across the board which is desperately needed for the survival of the economy and businesses. “This year, the government will have to forget revenue and reduce its expenditures which is the only way to save businesses from total collapse and also the masses from unemployment, poverty, hunger and starvation. Practical and out of box measures have to be taken to spend minimum amount of funds on running the affairs of the government while all the saved funds must be utilized to support businesses”, they added.
Siraj Teli and Agha Shahab further recommended that the government should encourage all entities and individuals in undocumented sector to become part of the documented economy by allowing them to invest in any sector with an assurance that no questions will be asked about the source of funding. This will bring in huge investments, create employment opportunities and will significantly contribute to the GDP growth. In the current extraordinary situation when the entire world is busy in battling with the COVID-19 pandemic, the government is not likely to face any objections from FATF, World Bank, IMF or G-20 as all these agencies will obviously relax their conditions keeping in view the ongoing extraordinary situation.
Chairman BMG and President KCCI hoped that realizing the gravity of the situation and the hardships being suffered by all business and industries, the government would pay attention to KCCI’s appeal and accordingly announce across the board relief to all the sectors with a view to save the economy, businesses and the countrymen from further plunging into a recession and its effects on entire population.