LAHORE - Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association has said escalation of oil prices, coupled with frequent loadshedding has devastated the garmenting sector. The peace rate workers that were earning handsome amount based on their high productivity are losing heart and are leaving the profession as they cannot produce much if there is 8-12 hours load shedding. This was stated during the brief given to the Lahore Economic Journalists association by PRGMEA chairman Jamshaid Hanif at PRGMEA House Lahore. He appealed the government to release the 60 per cent R&D grant for 2007-08 held by Central Bank and issue instructions to the banks not to charge mark-up on loans in 2009. This he warned is a dangerous trend as the industry is losing highly skilled workers due to power shortages. He warned that soon the industry would face acute shortage of skilled labor force if the power disruptions in the country continued at current level. These demands were made during the brief given to the Lahore Economic Journalists association by PRGMEA chairman Jamshaid Hanif at PRGMEA House Lahore. He said that the garment making industry has come under severe stress not only due to the flawed policies of the government but also because of its failure to even honor the commitments of releasing the unfairly held payments of the exporters. He said besides R&D the government has not yet cleared the long held sales tax dues of the garment exporters dating back to four years. He said global recession has hit the most labor intensive sector of textiles badly. The government he regretted has remained aloof to the genuine problems of the industry. This behavior of the government he added is in sharp contrast to the prompt actions taken by the Chinese, Indian and Bangladeshi governments that announced immediate incentives for their clothing sector when the global recession threatened their exports. He said the inaction by the government has deprived Pakistan from taking advantage of its low labor cost which less than that of India, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. He said only Bangladesh and Cambodia have lower wages in garment industry than Pakistan. He said in the deteriorating economic situation the industry expected the government to protect jobs by supporting the sectors under stress. He said priority in this regard should have been given to the labor intensive sectors like garments and knitwear. He said all is not lost and the government could still bolster the garment industries by taking some prudent steps in line with the steps taken by the competing economies for this sector. He said the R&D grant that was withdrawn in the last budget should be resumed in the coming budget. The rate of export refinance he added should be brought down to three per cent from current seven per cent. He said the industry has to pay 2.5 to 3 per cent service charges to the banks in addition to the export refinance rate announced by the central bank. The service charges he added should be cut by 50 per cent as the export refinance has almost 100 per cent pay back record. Hanif said that Pakistani garment industry is in a position to give much better performance if it is assured level playing field vis-a-vis its competitors.