Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, in a meeting with leading industrialists and exporters at the CM House on Saturday, said he would discuss with his cabinet members and government machinery as to how and under which conditions and SOP, if necessary, the export-based industry could be allowed to start operations.
“This was not an easy decision to impose a lockdown and stop the wheel of the industry,” he said and added, “I had only one option — either to save the economy at the cost of the people or to protect the people [from coronavirus] at the cost of the economy — and I opted for protecting my people at the cost of the economy.”
He said that now we were facing the music and the payment of salaries for the current month (to the government employees) had become difficult for him, but he would manage the situation. He said the lockdown could not be withdrawn immediately but it would be eased after April 14.
Those who attended the meeting included Qasim Siraj Teli, Mian Zahid , Mohamad Ali Taba, Zain Bashir, Khalid Majeed, Aman qasim, Khurram Ijaz, Javid Balwani, Zubair Chaya, Fawad Anwar and Bashir Rasheed. Deputy Chairman Senate Saleem Mandviwala, provincial ministers Saeed Ghani, Mukesh Chawla, Imtiaz Shaikh, Nasir Shah, Murtaza Wahab, Principal Secretary to CM Sajid Jamal Abro, Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shahalwani, Secretary Labour Rasheed Solnagi also attended the meeting.
The chief minister said that so far, no coronavirus case had been detected in slum areas and katchi abadis. All the cases have been diagnosed among the people living in settled areas, who either had a travel history or had been locally infected, he said and added that if a case emerged in the slum area, then it would spread like a wildfire.
Keeping in view the sensitivity of the situation, he said, he had imposed the lockdown and shut down all the government offices, except that of the essential services. The businesses were also closed except that of the grocery shops and stores.
Shah said that the monthly salary bill of the government/local government employees was around Rs45 billion, for which major funds were being provided by the federal government from the federal divisible pool. “As a matter of fact, in the last few months of the current financial year, the federal government funding had increased, but in last month, in March, it had decreased drastically to Rs33 billion,” he said and added that the reason was less revenue collection by the federal government. “The federal government is also facing a difficult situation,” he said.
The concerned industrialists said that they had received export orders and if they failed to export their finished goods the orders would be withdrawn by the international buyers. “This would not only be detrimental to the national economy, but it is bound to damage their credibility in the international market,” they said.
The exporters and industrialists said that the lockdown had left the finished goods unpacked at their units, while half-finished products there were yet to be completed; therefore, they should be given an SOP for maintaining hygiene, social distancing and transportation for the workers of their factories and be allowed to start operations at the earliest.
They also proposed that the exporters/factories which have labour colonies be allowed to start operations in the first phase and then in the next phases the other industries be allowed to work.
The chief minister assured the industrialists and exporters of considering their proposals purely on merit.
“Let me discuss the matter with my cabinet members and other government team members as to how and to which extent their request or proposals can be entertained,” he said.
The leaders of small traders requested the chief minister for a loan for the payment of salaries to their employees.
At this, the chief minister asked them to work out the amount of their salaries being paid by them all over Sindh so that their request could be considered.
The meeting was attended by Hakim Shah, Shaikh Habib, Abdullah Lashari, Wajid Mirza, Mohsin Ali, Sajid, Tahir Zaman, Inayat Rasool. Prominent industrialists Qasim Siraj Teli and Mian Zahid especially attended the meeting. Minister Labour Saeed Ghani, Local Government Minister Nasir Shah, the Karachi commissioner, the labour secretary and others also attended the meeting.
The small traders requested the chief minister not to extend the lockdown after April 14.
Shah hinted at easing the lockdown from April 15 but said it could not be withdrawn completely.