KARACHI: Businessmen urged the government on Thursday to control the rupee’s devaluation, curb food inflation and end prolonged loadshedding in industrial areas.

Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) President Muhammad Idrees said these economic problems have jeopardised Pakistan’s future. “The top brass must get the national priorities in order and fix the ailing economy in a more sustainable manner,” he said.

The rupee has lost around 35 per cent of its value against the dollar since January 2022. The dollar rate is currently hovering around 240. It’s pushing up the cost of production and contributing to food inflation, he said.

The industry is paying record-high electricity bills, which are leading to the closure of a large number of small and medium enterprises and resulting in unemployment.

He opined that it was disastrous to hinder trade by banning the imports of even raw material and machinery. It has only created more trouble for the business and industrial community, he said. KCCI has been constantly receiving complaints from importers whose consignments are not being cleared due to the central bank’s condition requiring prior approval for foreign payments, he said. The delay in the clearance of consignments from ports is causing heavy losses to importers on account of additional demurrages and detention charges.

He warned that the record-high cost of doing business, rapidly rising cost of living, dwindling foreign exchange reserves, devaluing rupee, destruction caused by floods and the outbreak of epidemics have created a challenging situation for Pakistan. All these issues are unlikely to get resolved in the near future, he said.

“The policymakers must act sensibly, review the entire scenario on a war footing and quickly come up with a practical plan of action to bring down the cost of doing business as well as the cost of living. Otherwise, the crisis may push Pakistan’s economy to a point of no return. It may even trigger anarchy all over the country as unemployment and poverty levels rise,” he said.

Site Association of Industry President Abdul Rasheed also expressed serious concerns over eight hours of loadshedding — from midnight to 8am — in the SITE area on a daily basis, which is affecting production and exports.

In addition to loadshedding, the industrial units are also facing low gas pressure, he said. Industries will shut down if such anti-business practices continue, he warned the policymakers.

Mr Rasheed urged the government and K-Electric to immediately end the night-time loadshedding in the SITE area that the power utility is carrying out in the name of load management. They must consult the stakeholders before taking any such step in the future, he added.

Federal B. Area Association of Trade and Industry President Haroon Shamsi demanded that cheaper natural gas be prioritised for grid power production as it’s the only way to ensure affordable and continuous power supply for households and industries.

Employers’ Federation of Pakistan President Ismail Suttur said that banks are not opening letters of credit (LCs) for the import of machinery and industrial material.

“These delays in the opening of LCs do not align with the central bank’s claim about imposing no restrictions on imports,” he said.

Industries, including food, pharmaceutical, steel, automobile, telecom and home appliances, are facing the adverse consequences of poor policy decisions. Several auto manufacturers have suspended production due to the delays in the clearance of LCs. Industries are experiencing shortages of raw material, something that’s directly affecting production levels, he said.

The government and the central bank should encourage industrial production rather than causing hindrances in the trade process, he said.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2022

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