Masses across Pakistan are meeting their daily household purchase needs from ubiquitously present retail outlets. The Pakistan retail industry consists of 8 million plus outlets, primarily dealing in food, beverages, and tobacco businesses. Albeit, concept of modern shopping malls has already taken a prominent place on the national marketing canvas, yet, this concept is confined to the major cities only, leaving the rest, a humungous consumer base to be served through retail outlets. There is a comprehensive workforce deployed in the field, to serve the retail outlets .These salespersons are front line soldiers for any company as they take orders from the retail and provide them with stocks in return. The sales force remuneration largely depends upon number of sale calls executed per day as they are given fixed percentage of total sales value generated by them. The aforementioned preamble is aimed at elucidating the indispensability of salespersons to run the economy of retail industry as well as to ascertain the fact that Sales as a job category also constitutes of largest job franchise within the corporate sector.

It is alarming to mention that the incumbent sector of sales is in a precarious situation, owing to a new law promulgated by the state that makes it requisite for every salesperson to collect CNIC (Computerized National Identity Card) of every retail store’s owner. This law, which has been semi-implemented so far has already taken the toll of rendering substantial number of sales persons jobless.

Corporate sector is sine qua non for any economy by offering an economic growth opportunity by investing in human capital through professional development. In addition private sector also channelize the energies of the young segment of society by offering them propitious job incentives, and an environment that offers a test of their capabilities. Economy in shambles, inflation sky-rocketing, and a devaluation of currency at its peak usually get translates into a very conducive environment for any corporate sector to lay-off its employees. However, here, all aforementioned factors along with the responsibility of collecting CNIC, an indispensable pre-requisite to generate sales, on behalf of government, has made it more deplorable for a poor sales person who is working very hard on a daily basis to make his ends meet.

Like many other steps taken by the government to enhance the tax collection volume by documenting the economy, collection of retailers CNIC is yet another, tedious and an uphill task, that has been left to corporate sector to deal with, rather to be carried out by the government itself. FBR directed all corporate sector companies who are the regular contributors to the national exchequer by paying hefty taxes every month, to collect retailers CNIC on their behalf, with clear instructions that the company shall ensure that every invoice that gets generated from its accounting system bears a CNIC number of the retailer, from August 2019.

The incumbent move by FBR has further exacerbated an already languishing economic scenario marked with a growth rate plummeted to 2.4 % from a flourishing 5.4 % and has challenged the private sector`s capacity to invest and expand. Retailer’s abstemious demeanor towards the submission of CNIC to the companies is primarily owing to a trust deficit that prevails between them and the government. Owing to an indecisiveness at the government part, zero outcome has been recorded out of numerous rounds of meeting held with the business representatives so far. Post July 2019, it was categorically communicated by the FBR to the companies that those retailers who have not been able to submit their CNIC should not be provided with shipments from companies, and a crackdown will be initiated against those retailers, from August 2019 by FBR. Had, FBR kept its word by taking stern action against the retailers failing to register themselves with FBR, post August, situation could have been better because retailers would have been compelled to submit their CNIC to continue their businesses.

Haplessly, on the contrary, FBR went into negotiations with the non-tax paying faction of retailers and started extending the deadlines of CNIC submission for retailers, while keeping the corporate sector on toes by directing them not to generate sales until CNIC is submitted. It becomes impossible for a grass root level sales person to overcome this predicament, when retailer says that government has exonerated them from penalty till further notice, while his employer instruction of getting CNIC remains sine qua non for the job continuity. Consequently, thousands of Sales personnel lost their jobs in the last five months. The government economic reforms rendition so far made it axiomatic that like much other rhetoric aimed at lambasting the wrong doings of the previous governments, this move also has been restricted to the lip service only. All consumer goods manufacturers are in dilemma as to how come out of this quagmire of ever-increasing cost of doing business owing to remarkable increase in energy and basic utilities cost over the past 18 months and squeezing business volumes. Apparently it is unfair on government part to let law-abiding and tax-contributor corporate sector suffers at the hands of inefficient tax collection regime introducing confused and unprofessional steps bearing zero outcome to enlarge the tax bracket. It is widely accepted fact that the national tax collection body has never been a part of solution, and it requires a proficient approach to bring in an overall change in the national tax collection domain by introducing easy to understand and tangible benefits for any small businessman to become a responsible tax contributor.

Instead of putting corporate sector which is not trained to address national administrative conundrums, and subsequently jeopardizing the careers of a large salesperson franchise, in a scenario where the incumbent sector finds itself bent upon lowering down the cost by rendering people jobless, we should look into exploring other options. Every smallest of a retail shop has an electricity connection, and its bill can be used to ascertain the ownership. To start with the big cities, where to a large extent, a viable local bodies governance system is present, local union councils, could be an option to cajole the retailers’ fraternity to become tax payers. As someone from within the government aptly said that it is not the government responsibility to give jobs, however equally relevant is to quote that, it is also not the government’s obligation to find ways to make people jobless.

 

The writer is an Islamabad based corporate

professional.