KARACHI/LAHORE: The export-oriented industry and trade on Saturday strongly rejected the government’s announcement of a five-day Eidul Fitr holiday from May 10 to 15, claiming that the break would cause a loss of over $300 million in exports.
Talking to Dawn, trade and industry leaders said the long Eid holiday – which is likely to spill over to nine days starting from May 7 and ending on May 16 – will hurt economic activity. They urged the government to withdraw its decision by squeezing the festive break to three days only. They urged the government to announce revised holidays of Eidul Fitr from May 12 to 15.
“We are wondering why the government is going for a huge economic shutdown on Eid since many people would start moving to their hometowns from May 7 onwards,” All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) central chairman Adil Bashir told Dawn on Saturday.
The export-oriented industry includes textile, cement, automobile, steel and glass among others. A large number of workers are housed within factory premises or in colonies located around the industrial areas.
On special events/festivals including Eidul Fitr and Azha, Eid Milad un Nabi and Yaum-e-Ashur, these factory workers stay within the colonies rather than go to their native towns and villages in a bid to earn overtime and avail other in-house activities.
Following the Covid-19 pandemic last year, Pakistan, like other countries, imposed a strict lockdown during the first wave of coronavirus. Back then, the government had announced three-day Eid holiday like previous years. This time, however, due to the massive increase in Covid-19 infections in the ongoing third wave, the government, keeping in view the deteriorating situation in India, decided to enhance the restrictions. It announced Eidul Fitr holidays for five days – going up to nine days if the weekend were taken into account – along with halting intracity, intercity and inter-provincial transport. However, it didn’t impose any restriction to close down the industry.
“There is no order from the government to close the industry but the long break is an issue as workers residing in factory colonies cannot stay at home for so long. They will definitely move to their native towns and villages by hiring private taxies, vans or by train. In this way, they may become source of virus spread in other areas or end up contracting the virus,” Bashir feared.
He further said the millers cannot afford giving workers so much money in the form of overtime if they want to do work. “In addition, there will be no transport to transfer the finished goods from one to other places.
Talking to Dawn, Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) president Mian Tariq Misbah said that undoubtedly the government is acting wisely to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and the industry appreciates the forceful steps in this regard. However, the government must reconsider the long Eid holiday.
Rejecting the government’s decision, industrialists said shutting down the country for 10 days was unacceptable.
Employers Federation of Pakistan (EFP) President Ismail Suttur said the business community is already working on limited hours as per the Ramazan schedule and facing difficulties in meeting expectations of buyers for timely delivery and management of supply chains.
“The expected lockdown in the month of May has already disturbed future planning for the export-oriented industry,” he said.
Chairman Businessmen Group (BMG) & former President Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) M Zubair Motiwala stated that shutting down the country for six consecutive days was unacceptable as it would create a lot of problems for the economy and the business community, particularly the exporters.
The government must review this decision and announce Eid holidays from May 12-15 which would certainly give some breathing space to the exporters by enabling them to dispatch shipments on May 10 and 11.
Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2021