Welcoming relief package of Rs125 billion for SMEs and daily-wage workers amid the COVID-19 lockdown, business community has expressed optimism that these steps would help overcome difficulties of small businesses and labourers.
The LCCI President, Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, Senior Vice President, Ali Hussam Asghar, and Vice President Mian Zahid Jawaid Ahmad said on Tuesday that the relief package of Rs50 billion for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Rs75 billion for labourers would help small traders and workers combat the challenges posed by the coronavirus.
They said that all the authorities would have to utilize all their energies to achieve the desired goals. Under the package, the federal government would pay the power bills of small businesses across the country for the month of May, June and July benefiting nearly 3.5 million shopkeepers across the country in addition to Rs12,000 each for laborers, they said.
They maintained that the government would have to take some additional measures to address the grievances of small businesses; the interest payments of the small businesses should be deferred for a period of six months. They said that the government should also introduce a scheme of interest-free loans for the registered SMEs.
"The credit limit for registered SMEs should be ten times of their respective electricity bills," they said. "We would also advocate introduction of supportive measures for the shopkeepers across the country so that they only have to pay 50 percent of their rent each month for the next 6 months while the remaining rent is waived off," they said.
They hoped that government would also give relief to the trade, industry and the masses on utility and petroleum products prices. They said that oil prices in the international market have fallen heavily while prices in US market have gone negative.
Meanwhile, Chairman Faisalabad Industrial Estate Development and Management Company (FIEDMC) Mian Kashif Ahsfaq while talking to a delegation of retailers said the government was well aware of the problems facing the business and traders community due to the lockdown.
He said that business community must be taken on board while finalizing the SOPs as the coronavirus had hugely damaged the businesses and the revival of routine business can only be possible if extensive relief package was offered to the business community.
He suggested that sales tax rate has to be 5 percent, and income tax and interest free loans should be offered to business community so that they can feed their family and their workers.