Grievances of business community


PROMINENT names in the business sector met Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday to convey their frustration over continuing economic slowdown and the difficulties they are facing due to some of the measures adopted by the Government over the last one year. Official version of what transpired in the unusual dinner was not available for obvious reasons but media reports suggest leaders of the business community expressed their serious concern over the state of economy, which is being described as stagflation, its implications for their businesses and sought measures on a war footing to set things right. They lamented that their industrial units were closing down one by one, rendering thousands of people jobless but pledges made by the government for improvement of the situation are not realizing.
In the first place the very meeting of the representatives of the businessmen with the COAS is indicative of the gravity of the situation as it shows they have lost hopes in the ability of the Government to handle the crisis. The Government should have engaged the business community timely for a meaningful interaction that could have salutary effect on the overall situation. There is no doubt that the authorities concerned have been taking measures aimed at addressing the downturn in the economy. A number of initiatives have been taken during the last one year to put the economy back on track and help Pakistan stand on its own feet financially by improving tax collection. However, there is general impression that the strategy adopted so far has complicated the situation further and the intended benefits are not visible. This is particularly so in the case of massive devaluation of rupee that should have led to the significant increase in exports but that has not happened and people and the country were unnecessarily burdened with inflation and multiplication of debt. A case in point is the auto sector where devaluation has taken the prices of vehicles beyond the reach of the people and as a consequence assembly and manufacturing units are closing down, production having a nose dive workers being laid off. Same is true of some of the taxation measures that have not resulted into meaningful increase in revenues but caused skyrocketing inflation. There seems to be lack of coherence in the policies and actions of the Government as is manifest in its oft-repeated assertions to ensure ease of doing business but tariff of electricity was raised twice in two days to meet IMF conditionalities. The benefit of decrease in the prices of oil in the international market are not passed on to the consumers and it was, perhaps, for the first time that the Government decided to keep the prices unchanged for the month in anticipation of possible increase in prices in the current month. Interest rate is at the highest but there is no indication as yet that the authorities intend to bring it down to a level where prospective entrepreneurs find it feasible to take loans for any business activity.
In view of rising inflationary trend the Government should have, at least, spared food items from taxation but it increased duties on them in a wholesale manner and as a result it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to manage their home budgets. There is no relief for the common man but elite is getting away with undue perks and privileges as was evident from the grant of executive allowance worth 150% of the basic pay to selected officers from BS-17 to 22 in Punjab. Business community is lucky that they are able to raise their voice at the relevant forums but ordinary citizens cannot air their grievances in a collective manner despite the fact that their lives are also miserable. The situation demands that the Government reviews its policies and programmes in a holistic manner and come out with a visionary approach to address vows of both the business community and people of Pakistan. It is hoped that the economic managers of the Government would hold extensive consultations with all stakeholders and take measures with consensus to address malaise of the economy. A sense of urgency is required as the prevailing situation is causing economic and political uncertainty, which does not augur well for future of the country.

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