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Traders threaten strike, rallies against budgetary measures

Updated June 29, 2019

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Sindh, Punjab-based traders have unanimously agreed to bring out protest rallies against the harsh budgetary measures. — Dawn/File
Sindh, Punjab-based traders have unanimously agreed to bring out protest rallies against the harsh budgetary measures. — Dawn/File

KARACHI/LAHORE: The uncertain rupee-dollar parity and harsh budgetary measures have forced the trading community across the country to unite and protest against the budget 2019-20.

In Karachi, representatives of various small traders’ associations and markets held an emergency meeting on Friday. Unanimously rejecting the budget, the leaders set up a Traders Action Committee (TAC) to protest against the budgetary measures. The TAC comprises of 15 people representing various traders and markets associations in Karachi. The number of representatives could increase in the committee as more bodies join in.

Meanwhile, at a joint press conference of traders in Lahore on Friday, it was announced that a meeting has been convened on July 1 in Islamabad to decide future action. All traders groups are being taken on board for the purpose through a coordination committee.

Sindh and Punjab-based traders have unanimously agreed to bring out protest rallies against the harsh budgetary measures.

Talking to Dawn, representatives slammed government’s unfriendly business policies which they claimed were devised without taking any input from the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI). Traders have expressed serious apprehensions over the amnesty scheme, action against non-filers, biometric verification of bank accounts and transfer of big bonds.

Another issue that haunts the trading community is the newly introduced Section 8 (m) of the Sales Tax Act in which all sales tax invoices must include CNIC number of buyer. Distributors of various manufacturing companies have started distributing “Customer NIC Acknowledgement Form” to shopkeepers which seeks details including customer’s business/shop name, name of proprietor, CNIC number of proprietor and a copy of the national ID card for shopkeepers.

General Secretary All City Tajir Itehad Association, Ahmed Shamsi said the volatile exchange rate has severely disturbed the cost of imported items. There are reports that traders are scuffling over pricing of items after massive fluctuation in the rupee-dollar parity, he added. “After holding protest rallies, we will shutdown markets in case our grievances are not addressed,” Shamsi said.

Patron-in-Chief Karachi Whole­salers Grocers Association (KWGA), Anis Majeed said, “Our members are not placing any fresh orders for imports of pulses since the last three days owing to the vulnerable exchange rate. This is despite the fact that world pulses prices have been on the decline.”

He said all business activities in pulses trade are slow as falling rupee value in the last three days and then sudden recovery of the currency against the dollar on Friday led to huge problems in determining actual pulses rates.

President Karachi Electronic Dealers Association (KEDA), Mohammad Rizwan said the electronics markets were also facing lull as traders are worried over various budgetary measures. “We cannot run our business smoothly under tough trading environment that has emerged after the budget,” he added.

Meanwhile, explaining the ‘anomalies’ in the budget at the press conference Lahore, Naeem Mir, a traders leader, said merchants willing to avail the tax amnesty scheme were not given any workable solution about the merchandise they sold on credit whereas the shopkeepers were also required to pay tax on the basis of the area of their respective commercial enterprise instead of income. Likewise, the Federal Board of Revenue also planned to audit bank accounts on the basis of cash deposit as low as Rs500,000 and not on turnover basis.

He said a team of the All-Pakistan Anjuman Tajran (APAT) had met with the Anomalies Committee of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and presented its recommendations regarding the problems to be caused to the traders because of the tax measures. “Out of the 14-point charter of demand, the government agreed to accept only one: disempowering the FBR commissioner to raid commercial enterprises and did not agree to the remaining points,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2019