Small businesses insist on reopening shops

Urge govt to devise way out of current situation

Shahram Haq April 10, 2020

LAHORE: Small and medium-sized traders are raising pressure on their respective bodies and government authorities, urging them to devise a way out of the current situation so they may resume business activities.

Lahore, which is home to over 500 retail and wholesale markets, has been in a lockdown for more than two weeks now and almost every trader is insisting on the partial reopening of markets, if not complete opening, for the time being.

“We do understand that lockdowns have been imposed in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic but we, small-scale traders, are going through a social stigma which we have never experienced in the past,” said Ali Arif, a medium-scale trader at one of the city’s retail markets. “Like other big businesses, our supply chain has also been disrupted.”

He pointed out that rented shops and financial hurdles were turning out to be the biggest worries for such businesses and the only option left for them was to resume retail activity at their shops.

Economic downturn in Pakistan is deepening in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic and both federal and provincial governments are making efforts to keep wheels of the economy running.

The small traders added that the bailout package of Rs1.2 trillion announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan may assist large-scale export-oriented sectors but small retailers and shopkeepers would reap no benefits as they feared they would not receive even a single penny.

“We are left with only two options, either we start trading activities or receive a relief package for thousands of small and medium-sized retailers,” said All Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajiran Secretary General Naeem Mir.

“We are aware that we will not get any kind of aid from the government so we are forced to open our shops and markets from April 15 and follow precautionary measures laid down by the World Health Organisation.”

Separately, car showroom operators of the city have said they will also reopen their outlets from April 15. Lahore Car Dealers Federation President Shehzada Saleem Khan told The Express Tribune that many industries had reopened and car dealers should also be allowed to resume their business given that 90% of dealers worked on rented shops. Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh said a slot, preferably from 9am to 5pm, should be allotted to these businesses so they could reopen.

“We appreciate the government for allowing export-oriented industries to function, however, small traders and shopkeepers should also be given similar relief as they are facing trouble arising from the severe financial crunch,” Sheikh said. 

Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2020.

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