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KARACHI: Chairman Businessmen Group Zubair Motiwala and President Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) Muhammad Idrees have appealed to the government to come forward to rescue the small traders and shopkeepers by devising some kind of an effective mechanism to protect their interests and announce a special relief package for them which could reduce their costs and ensure that they survive in this era of high inflation.

While referring to upsurge in petroleum prices by Rs60 within a week along with exorbitant hike of Rs7.91 in electricity base tariff and 44 percent increase in SSGC’s gas tariff by OGRA, they stated that a catch-22 situation has been created not only for the industries but also for all segments of society particularly the poor masses and small traders and shopkeepers who simply cannot bear the burnt and were extremely worried over across-the-board inflation.

Chairman BMG and President KCCI said that it was really unfortunate that the issues being confronted by small traders, who are an integral part of the economy, were not on government’s priority list and it appears that they have been left alone during the ongoing difficult times.

Zubair Motiwala said that the inflation has badly gripped the entire society as prices of almost all the household items have skyrocketed, making them unaffordable for majority of the public while those people, who were somehow able to afford, have also become very cautious that has brought down the shopkeepers’ sales to somewhere around 20 to 30 percent.

“In this scenario, how a small trader or a shopkeeper can survive and meet some inevitable expenditures including gas and electricity bills, shop rent and wages to his workers,” he asked. “It is undoubtedly a dire situation not only for the poor segment of society but also for the lower middle class and even some middle class families who have been silently suffering as being white-collar and educated people they cannot complain or seek for help from anyone”, Chairman BMG said, adding: “Inflation genie has to be contained at any cost otherwise, it will devour the common man.”

He stated that in addition to severe devaluation of Pakistani rupee against the US dollar, rising electricity tariff and petroleum prices, it was also a matter of grave concern that OGRA has approved a whopping increase of 44 percent in gas tariff for SSGC which would prove to be the last straw on camel’s back as it would result in closure of thousands of industrial units, trigger massive unemployment and give a boost to smuggling through misuse of Afghan Transit Trade and other illegal channels.

“In this scenario, the economy will stay in hot waters; crises would worsen further and the situation may lead to a serious anarchy in the country”, he cautioned.

He said that when the exports have picked up pace and recorded an increase of 26 percent while the manufacturing sector has also witnessed an upsurge of 39 percent, the anti-business moves including raising the interest rates, increasing petroleum prices and now hiking of the gas tariff have been taken which would stem the progress of Pakistan and result in shutting down many industrial units that would surely face a bankruptcy.

Muhammad Idrees said the production activities of the manufacturing sector supplying goods at the local markets have also been slowed down due to rising cost of doing business and the subsequent increase in the cost of finished goods.

“Why would a manufacturing unit keep on producing goods at same pace and capacity when the local markets have become almost stagnant”, he asked, adding that it was a very alarming situation which would raise the unemployment all over the country as many people would lose jobs due to limited production activities and closure of hundreds of industrial units which cannot bear the all-time high cost of doing business.

Saying that after increasing the petroleum prices and electricity tariff, the IMF’s demands have mostly been fulfilled, President KCCI urged the government to take notice of the situation and take steps for providing relief to the industries, shopkeepers and the poor masses; otherwise things are going to get really tough.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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