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Tycoons’ dinner reception with COAS: Top businessmen explode before Gen Bajwa

The businessmen met the COAS at a dinner reception that continued late at night on Wednesday.

October 03, 2019
Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. File photo

ISLAMABAD: Heads of Pakistan’s leading business houses have called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa Wednesday night to convey their serious concerns about Pakistan’s stagnating economy and the government’s tepid response to the debilitating situation facing the drivers of the country’s economy.

Their main gripe was that the government does not go beyond verbal assurances and that its words do not match its action.

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Sources with the knowledge of what was discussed in the meeting claimed that the army chief heard the grievances expressed by 16 to 20-strong delegation and assured them of his help, adding that he will try to do something for the resolution of their problems at the earliest. The COAS also floated an idea that an internal committee be formed comprising military officers to work on the delegates’ complaints so that they could be resolved as soon as possible, the sources claimed.

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The businessmen met the COAS at a dinner reception that continued late at night on Wednesday.

General Bajwa advised the business tycoons that they should cooperate with the government and do not side with anti-government forces.

Addressing the leading businessmen of the country, the army chief said that we all love Pakistan, and the country needs them the most. He hailed the services rendered by the business community for Pakistan, adding that with their (business community) efforts the country will move forward in the comity of the nations. He also consoled them, saying that he feels their pain.

Related: ADB sees Pakistan’s growth lowest at 2.8pc in South Asia

The delegates did not keep their anger and frustration at the government’s attitude towards economy from General Bajwa and conveyed to him that their business units are getting closed one by one, and if remedial measures were not taken then all their business would be shut, leaving countless labourers unemployed. They said that labourers’ bread and butter is also linked with their businesses. They said that it their businesses were a result of years of hard work after creation of Pakistan and they have been managing through thick and thin in different eras.

The business tycoons requested the Army Chief to do something for God sake, adding that it was a matter of pain that they are not seeing light at the end of the tunnel. They said that if nothing was done on emergency basis the situation will deteriorate further multiplying the problems.

It is to be mentioned here that in the last meeting with traders in Karachi few months ago, the Army Chief had assured the trader leaders that he would talk with the government for resolution of their problems. The COAS had asked them to contact him if they face any problem(s) in future.

Mehtab Haider adds: The business community expressed its concerns about stagflation where the GDP growth is touching the lowest ebb while inflation is persistently rising and its resulting into halting economic activities.

At this point of time the FBR is squeezing the businesses to maximise its revenues. They also complained about increasing cost of doing business was making hard for them to make their business venture economically viable.

Among those who were present in the meeting included former president FPCCI Zubair Tufail, Arif Habib, Mian Mansha, Hussain Dawood, Ali Mohammad Tabba, Ali Jameel, Javed Chinoy, Zubair Motiwala, Ijaz Gohar, Aqeel Karim Dhedi, Zubair Tufail, Siraj Qasim Teli, Saqib Shirazi and some other textile tycoons. The sources said that the business tycoons might also meet with Prime Minister Imran Khan. The businessmen criticised NAB activities against them and further stated that the element of fear among the public sector increased manifold so no public sector employee was ready to resolve their genuine problems.

No official word was available but sources who held discussions with top business tycoons prior to this meeting told this scribe that the business activities were standing at standstill situation causing serious concerns for the business community. The business tycoons were perturbed mainly because of increasing policy rate and exchange rate that resulting into creating uncertainties and barring them to take decision on making investments related decisions.

The foreign direct investment (FDI) is showing stagnant results. There are many sectors of large scale manufacturing where the growth is on decline from last several months. The textile sector is not performing up to the desired because of increased tax burden after withdrawal of zero rating. Mansoor Ahmad adds from Lahore: The businessmen apprised the COAS that the GDP growth is going down but the revenues are increasing which is never heard of in any economy. They said 90 percent increase in revenues came from the existing taxpayers that has increased the cost of doing business.

The corruption rate has increased instead of declining. They feared that after losing the export market they are likely to lose the domestic market to imports if the energy and power rates are not brought down.

They said instead of eradicating corruption and losses in power and energy sectors the burden has been passed on to businesses. Now they await a response from the concerned quarters.

It was also learnt the businessmen registered their concern over unusual activity of the FBR officials -- making calls and paying unplanned visits. Many businessmen also narrated the fact that is was becoming difficult for them to get money from the concerned financial institution for either running their existing business or expanding their respective facilities. They stated the institution was refusing to facilitate them on the pretext of low dollar reserves in the country.

The half cooked documentation drive is creating more uncertainty as the CNIC condition is being deferred by the FBR realising broken value chain in many sectors. Textile sector particularly the spinners are sitting on huge unsold stocks as small weavers are not lifting yarn because of CNIC condition.

Erum Zaidi adds from Karachi: One of the leading businessmen who attended the meeting with COAS Gen Bajwa told The News that Hammad Azhar told the meeting that the IMF never asked Pakistan to increase the interest rate, a decision which was taken in the light of the dismal economic situation. However, the government is prepared to revise the interest rates downwards as and when the economic situation improves, Hammad was quoted as saying.