Business slams 6-day Eid break

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ISLAMABAD: The business community has demanded the decision makers to devise a national policy about holidays, criticising the six-day closure, especially of the banking sector, on the occasion of Eidul Azha.

Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Malik Zubair believed that this happened because Pakistan tried to copy Saudi Arabia in these matters, ignoring that it is a rich country.

“I think the policy decision is that we have to keep the begging bowl close to us all the time in future,” he said.

Members of business community belonging to the diversified sectors have termed the long holidays as a “politically motivated decision”.

The impact of banks being inoperative for six days (from Oct 15 to 20) has not only been felt by the traditional exporters but also by the importers in the oil and gas sector.“ This trend of long holidays was initiated by the previous government. It is damaging businesses across the board,” said Fasih Ahmed, director at Associate Group and an office bearer of the LPG Association of Pakistan.

He said such long holidays made people less productive. “Saturday is a working day at many places but people will prefer to take another day off. And those who come would not be working to the full.”

The most serious impact of banks not functioning for almost a week leads to delays in the opening of L/Cs, their encashment, making payments, etc.

“This is not only bad for businesses but terrible for the country’s image, too,” said Tariq Saeed, vice president of Asia Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry, a body spread over 36 countries of the region. “The international players are getting the impression that we are sleeping all the time.”

The business leaders said that the decision makers routinely talk of making Pakistan like China and others fast-progressing economises, but some banks in China operate 24 hours, only to facilitate the trading partners in other time zone like Europe and the Americas.

The impact of banking sector shutdown has not only been felt by those involved in international trade but those limited to local businesses are also bearing the brunt of the closure.

“There was only one working day (Monday) before Eid holidays and many ATMs are now out of cash,” said Fareed Qureshi, general secretary of Karachi Retail Grocers Group. “And they expect us to carry the cash all the time from the sale on Tuesday and after Friday.”

However, to avoid the decay and rotting of perishable items, a special arrangement has been made at Wagah border crossing with India, where the National Bank branch observes limited holidays.

“The NBP observed only two holidays and it is open on the third day of Eid at the border as we have to pay import duties,” said Safder Siddiq, the president of Wholesale Vegetable Market Welfare Association, Islamabad.

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