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LAHORE: The business community lodged a massive and strong protest demonstration in front of Lahore Press Club, here on Monday against the anti-industry policies of the government, especially the non-opening of LCs (Letter of Credits) by the SBP to import industry raw material for the smooth running of business activities in the country.

Thousands of protesters from various industrial estates, including Kotlakhpat Industrial Estate, Sundar Industrial Estate, Quaid-e-Azam Industrial Estate, Kanakacha Industrial Estate, Ferozepur Road Industrial Estate, Kasur Industrial Estates, Gujranwala Industrial Estates, Sheikhupura Industrial Estates, beside trade representatives of Lahore major markets and bazaars, gathered in front of Press Club to raise their voice against wrong economic policies of the government, particularly of the central bank.

Holding posters and banners, the protesters chanted slogans against the Finance minister as well as the State Bank governor as they are unable to deliver.

The protesters also criticised the banks for their delaying tactics to release payment and over-charging in proceed of import and exports shipment, asking the government to take strong action against atrocities of the banks officials.

While addressing on the occasion, Mian Anjum Nisar, who is the Chairman of FPCCI’s ruling group of Businessmen Panel (BMP) and Patron-in-Chief of the PIAF, threatened the government of continuing this protest across Pakistan until the clearance of their containers of imported goods, stuck-up at ports for a long time, as the economy is presently in a standstill position owing to this unfortunate attitude of the authorities.

Mina Anjum Nisar urged the government for immediate restoration of the opening of letters of credit with the availability of foreign exchange for the import of raw materials putting industries into gear.

He said that representatives of all trade bodies, industrial associations, markets and bazaars are here to participate in this protest, in the lead of BMP and PIAF to give a strong message to the government, giving the message to the government that every sector of trade and industry is severely affected due to stoppage of imported goods, as a result the economy is going towards a total closure and default.

PIAF Chairman Faheem ur Rehman Saigol, while addressing the protesters, stated that the non-issuance of LCs is crippling industrial activities, leading to massive unemployment as companies are unable to import the raw material necessary to keep their manufacturing wheel running.

While expressing deep concern over the non-issuance of LCs, he stated that the emerging situation has terribly affected industrial activities as well as exports, which would have a devastating impact on the already ailing economy and the lives of millions of poor people due to massive layoffs.

The SBP could take additional measures to further curtail imports through broadening the import restrictions and limiting the approval of LCs, he continued.

Importers, who are in a position to import raw material against their foreign exchange earnings, may be allowed to pen LCs, he said.

He also expressed apprehension, saying if the industrial raw material and other required imported items are not cleared by the government and timely payments are not made for the imported goods, there will be severe shortage of basic goods and critical items in the coming days.

The government must let the dollar demand reflect in the inter-bank exchange rate. This method will reduce dollar hoarding in the kerb market, he added. It is unfortunate that exports are falling due to the global recession while remittances are declining because the open market dollar rates are higher than the inter-bank rates that the businesses have to live with, he observed.

It is essential that the government and opposition start a dialogue on the economic future of Pakistan. They must not politicise the International Monetary Fund’s programme, he suggested.

The government has not been able to foresee the disaster and a task force should be formed to make people aware of the necessary measures to cope with the situation.

Other speakers said what we need urgently is opening of LCs with availability of foreign exchange for meeting the requirements of industrial sector. He said that many industries are now facing shortage of raw material and are on the verge of cutting their production. They observed that factories importing raw material for producing food, medicines and iron are now facing serious supply constraints. They said that the current economic situation is very disturbing; SMEs and large-scale industry (LSM) are suffering from slowness. Production has stopped due to non-availability of parts, bank payments are not being made, operational expenses are also becoming difficult to meet, which has increased the fear of unemployment, he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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