FAISALABAD/LAHORE-Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FCCI) has expressed concern over the critical economic crisis perpetrating due to the prolonged corona lockdown.

Addressing a press conference, Rana Sikandar Azam Khan President FCCI has demanded that government must finalize SOP for comprehensive precautionary measures to be adopted by traders to restart their business activities from April 14, 2020. “However, if immediate decision was not taken, the starvation will over-shadow the threats of corona virus”, he warned and added that this situation may also force unemployed daily wage earners to indulge in loot and plunder.

He said that corona related lockdown was started from March 24 and during last 13 days; the government has taken commendable measures to contain the pandemic but without considering its side effect on our social and economic life. He told that in addition to the daily wage earners the white collared trading class is also now feeling the heat of continuous lockdown. He told that Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced Rs.1200 billion stimulus packages out of which Rs.150 billion were earmarked for the poverty-stricken daily wagers.

He told that immediately after the lockdown, the business and industrial community had started their philanthropic activities and ration was provided to the unemployed daily wagers while industrialists have also announced to give full pay to their employees despite of the lockdown.

He told that situation has now entirely changed during the last two weeks and traders are facing severe liquidity crunch. He told that many traders have rented premises and their landlords are demanding rent while they need money to fulfill their own family needs in addition to paying the utility bills.

He said that despite of lofty claims of government, no practical assistance has yet been provided to the needy segments. He explained the miseries of different business sectors and told that poultry meat is available at Rs.100/kg due to the lack of market demand and each poultry farmer has so far suffered losses to the tune of Rs.4-5 million.

He further told that they were forced to release new crop of chicks in open fields as they are unable to feed them. “This situation will result in acute shortage of poultry meat in the coming months and it will not be available at Rs.500/kg if current situation continued”, he told and added that other segments are also facing similar problems while SME sector and cottage industry is forced to start “lay-off” rendering majority of workers jobless. He warned that if immediate remedial measures were not taken, the starved people will be forced to start looting and plundering.

Regarding exporters, he said that government has claimed to pay them Rs.100 billion. He clarified that this was refund amount as government has paid only Rs.100 billion out of Rs.250 billion collected from them. He said that government has not made any special favor as it was their own hard-earned money out of which a small portion has been paid to them.

He demanded that lockdown should not be further extended as it will trigger a new kind of social and economic crisis in the country. He also demanded that government should defer collection of utility bills for next three months. Similarly, the consumers with 300 units of electricity or gas users with billed amount up to Rs.1000/- may be totally exempted from payment for the months of March, April and May.

He said that government has allowed industrial units to start its operation after taking necessary precautionary and safety measures. “Similarly, the traders should also be allowed to open their businesses under a well thought-out SOP”, he added. He said that FCCI will not support anybody who will violate the SOP and their shops may be sealed forthwith as we have to fight against corona as well as unemployment at the same time.

Responding to a question, President FCCI told that traders would not open their shops without positive response from the government but government should also realize their genuine problems.

Expressing complete solidarity with protesting doctors of Quetta, he said that they are justified in demanding personal protective equipments (PPE) while performing their duty.

He further said that government should consider his press conference in a positive way in order to resolve the problems of the traders so that we could not only control the corona but also continue our business activities without any fear and immediate economic collapse.

Meanwhile, Lahore Chamber of Commerce Industry (LCCI) President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh has demanded relaxation for small traders and shopkeepers and urged the government to allow 9 to 5 business in the markets.

While talking to different delegations of traders, he said that the government has taken an appreciable step by allowing operations to the export-oriented industries but relief should also be given to the small traders and shopkeepers who were facing severe financial crunch.

“These people are backbone of the economy and playing a great role in providing employment and revenue”, he said and added that allowing 5 to 9 working hours would be a great favor that would enable them to face the challenges posed by coronavirus. He said that if small traders and shopkeepers were not allowed to open their businesses, they would not be able to stand on their feet for long. He informed the delegations that the LCCI has already raised the issue at a high level and hope that soon the traders and vendors would get their businesses open with SOPs.