KARACHI: A lack of documentation of trading activity makes it difficult to accurately assess the losses caused by a daylong strike, though most traders estimate they run into billions of rupees.
Most wholesale and retail markets remained closed on Wednesday as traders observed strike against the imposition of withholding tax on banking transactions, with some demanding resignations of the finance minister and the chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
In the latest budget, the government imposed a 0.6 per cent withholding tax — which it later reduced to 0.3pc for three months — on all kinds of banking instruments of non-filers of income tax returns.
According to leaders of different trade associations, the main markets remained completely closed till the sunset.
However, shopkeepers in some areas were seen pulling up shutters after 5pm.
Trade bodies project the cost of a daylong market closure differently. Sindh Tajir Ittehad’s (STI) General Secretary Ismail Lailpuriya estimated a day’s loss at Rs30 billion. But All Karachi Tajir Ittehad’s (AKTI) Chairman Atiq Mir said traders took a hit of Rs50bn collectively in the last three shutdowns against the withholding tax imposition.
“Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and FBR Chairman Tariq Bajwa are responsible for creating this crisis,” Mir said, demanding their resignations. He said his community was not ready to pay the bank transactions tax and has withdrawn money from bank accounts in retaliation to the government’s move.
He advised the government to reverse the decision on the “controversial withholding tax” and introduce a trader-friendly taxation system to bring them into tax net. He regretted that the prime minister has ignored invitations extended by traders for a meeting on Friday.
Lailpuriya of STI threatened an indefinite strike from Oct 7 if the issue of withholding tax was not resolved.
Meanwhile, industrialists offer different views as some said market closure definitely affects factory activities while others believed the industry can sustain a daylong shutdown of markets.
Site Association of Industry’s Chairman Mohammad Jawed Bilwani said that due to storage facilities and godowns, the industries did not feel any acute shortage of raw materials. However, he feared production losses in case the strike prolongs as it would hit supply chain, including the sale of domestic products to wholesale markets and procurement of raw material from the markets.
Korangi Association of Trade and Industry’s President Rashid Ahmed Siddiqui estimated at least 10 per cent productivity loss due to suspension in supply chain of various raw materials and goods among the factories, and wholesale and retail trade.
North Karachi Association of Trade and Industry’s President A. Rasheed Fodderwala said industrial activities remained unaffected despite the closure of wholesale and retail trade.
According to information gathered on Wednesday, most of the city’s main markets remained completely shut, including Saddar, Karim Centre, Bohri Bazar, Zainab Market, Regal Chowk, Clifton, Plaza Market, Garden Oil Market, Light House, Boulton Market, Old City Area, Jamma Clothe, Arambagh Furniture Market, Allah Wala Market, Medicine Market, Auto Parts Market, Tariq Road, Bahadurabad, Behar Colony, Sakhi Hassa, Nazimabad, Liaquatabad, New M.A. Jinnah Road, Old City Haji Camp, Khalid Bin Waleed Road, Motorcycle Market, Old Subzi Mandi, Nursery Market, Bohra Pir Glass Market, Madina Market, New Karachi, Burnes Road, Shershah Paracha Chowk, Paposh, Jubilee, Defense, Zamzama, Uni Centre, Electronics Market, Iron and Steel Market, Timber Market, Ranchore Line, Kabari Bazar, Sarafa Bazar, Cheel Bazaar, Jodia Bazar, Korangi, Landhi, Babar Market, Shah Faisal Market, Hyderi, Gulbahar and Manzoor Colony.