Traders want the government to let them open the markets. The government needs taxes to run the country. What needs to be done to contain the COVID-19 while opening the market?
All Pakistan Anjuman Tajiran on Monday demanded the government end the lockdown for traders on the 9th of May as ‘the trader community does not want any confrontation in this regar.’ Traders in Karachi have announced to open markets after May 9. The traders want the government to open industries and markets. However, the traders and everyone involved in the market affairs have assured the government to fully implement the rules devised by the state to contain the COVID-19.
It is important to mention that the traders in Sindh on Monday announced that they would resume all business activities in the province from Ramzan 15. The development came after a meeting of businesspersons was held at the office of the Karachi Electronics Dealers Association (KEDA) to hold discussions over different options for resuming businesses in the metropolis.
According to data released by the Pakistan Automotive Manufacturers Association (PAMA), passenger car sales dropped by 71.8% to only 5,796 units in March 2020 from 19,897 units sold during the same period last year. The decline in March is the largest ever decline in any month’s sales.
Passenger car sales in the cumulative period (July-March) dropped by 46.8% to 85,330 units, compared to 160,359 units sold during the corresponding period last year. With an exception to Suzuki’s Alto, as it was not produced in March last year, all variants of four-wheelers and above recorded a decline in sales.
Meanwhile, while addressing a press conference, General Secretary Naeem Mir said that the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and all traders’ associations have already announced that they would open industries and markets in Lahore from May 10 on their own.
“We do not want any clashes with the government nor do we want to challenge the writ of the government. The business community will take all possible precautions to prevent coronavirus spread. The world has to go on with coronavirus now, so we have to plan accordingly. With the opening of the businesses, the responsibility of preventing the coronavirus spread will fall on the entire nation and we have to fight this pandemic together,” Mir added.
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Social scientists believe that the country is likely to face social chaos as a result of the economic crisis. “People are running short of food now. There is no work for daily wagers. There is nothing to earn,” said G-M Pitafi, professor of Politics and International Relations at UMT, Lahore. He also feared that street crimes may increase for people won’t have food and they will break both social norms and legal rules to fulfil their basic needs.
Mr Mir said that Iftar parties will not be held in the markets and traders will comply with all standard operating procedures (SOPs) against the virus. The market union will take action against the shops violating the SOPs. The government should notify committees consisting of business representatives, administration and medical experts for the enforcements of COVID-19 SOPs,” he added.
“Grocery stores to be functional round the clock”
Mr Mir suggested that the retail shops, grocery stores, and all food markets should be planned to be functional round the clock in the style of medical stores. “The rush can be avoided by opening the retail business round the clock. All branches of banks should be declared open and special branches of banks should be opened for 24 hours. We will ensure that the small shops do not accommodate more than one customer at a time and only one more person will be able to enter the shop at a time with a female customer,” he said.
He also assured the authorities that social distancing of customers would be maintained. “We will ensure that everyone entering the shop or store will use hand sanitisers and no customer will be allowed to enter the shop without a mask. The shop owner and staff members will wear masks at all times. People suffering from the common cold, illness and fever will not be allowed to enter the shop and shop staff will not eat together,” he added.
“We cannot pay salaries”
It is important to note that the textile industry owners on Monday informed the Sindh High Court (SHC) that they would not be able to pay their employees because of the suspension of economic activities. This is not possible if the government is not willing to open industries and markets.
12 major textile industries had filed a petition in the court against the Sindh government’s order against laying off employees during the lockdown and the obligation on industry owners to pay their employees in full.
The lawyer for the petitioners stated that the payment demanded by the employees was, in fact, in violation of the law mentioned by the labour secretary. “Industries are closed; we cannot pay the employees,” the counsel responded. He added that this was an important matter and they want the case to be concluded as early as possible.
Upon hearing this, Justice Mazhar adjourned the case and asked the involved parties to continue their arguments on the 6th of May.
It is yet to be seen whether the federal government allows the traders to open markets or not.