Traders’ partial strike costs economy up to Rs25 billion: Chairman Atiq

KARACHI: Pakistan’s economy suffered an estimated loss of around Rs20-25 billion due to partial shutters-down strike observed  by small businessmen and traders nationwide to press the federal government to withdraw its ‘anti-business’ measures implemented through budget 2019-20.

“Traders’ turnover stands at around Rs50 billion in a day nationwide,” All Karachi Tajir Ittehad Chairman Atiq Mir said while talking to media. Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar said in a tweet that the share of retail sector in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stands at around 20%.

Rough calculations based on Azhar’s tweet suggest retailers do businesses worth around Rs30 billion a day. Trader of Karachi – which plays a crucial role in importing raw material and finished goods and supplying them throughout the domestic economy – observed partial strike after a section of traders claiming success in second round of negotiations with the government resumed business.

However, a large number of markets observed complete shutters-down strike – including Karachi’s main electronics market located in Saddar market, main sarafa and jewellers market in old city area from Tower to Jama Cloth Market, main cloth market at tower, Empress Market, Boltan Market, malls on Tariq Road, car dealers on Khalid Bin Walid Road and furniture market at Aram Bagh.

The country’s single largest wholesale market, Jodia Bazaar, and other markets including Sher Shah Scrap Market, timber, steel, cloth, sports markets, Light House in the old city area and markets Bahadurabad observed no or partial strike after their representative trade bodies claimed success in second round of talks with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Shabbar Zaidi and his team.

The markets in other parts of the country, including in Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Gujranwal, Quetta, Sukkur, Hyuderabad, Sialkot also observed shutters-down strike.

They observed strike after their negotiations with Prime Minster Imran Khan and his economic team – including adviser to PM on Finance Hafeez Shaikh and the FBR chairman – failed on Wednesday.

They demanded that the government withdraw conditions on traders of collecting a copy of Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) from buyers making purchase worth over Rs50,000 in a day and withdraw 17% sales tax imposed up on them through budget 2019-20.

They also demanded that sales tax should be collected from traders with annual revenue of over Rs20 million instead of Rs5 million; the FBR teams do not visit traders for audit; turnover tax be reduced to 0.5% from 2.5%; the exemption of income tax at an income of up to Rs1.2 million a year be restored and that traders be excluded from documenting their businesses for the time being.