A sort of rift appears to have emerged as the top leadership of Businessman Group (BMG) has contested the warning of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) chief that Pakistan is heading towards a Sri Lanka-like crisis.
On Thursday, FPCCI chief Irfan Iqbal Sheikh told a press conference that a national security issue had emerged after a steep fall in the rupee value and if the dollar appreciation was not contained, “Pakistan would become Sri Lanka.”
He said importers were running from pillar to post in getting the dollar and in case the situation persists, a petrol crisis would emerge as banks were opening the letters of credit (LCs) at Rs242 to a dollar.
Highlighting the government’s non-seriousness, Irfan said the government had yet to appoint a State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) governor, while the acting SBP chief is not interested to meet with the FPCCI leadership.
As a result, commercial banks were enjoying a heyday by indulging in speculation about the exchange rate, which was evident from the forward buying of a dollar at Rs245, he said.
He urged the government to appoint a permanent SBP government in the next 48 hours and also fix rupee-dollar parity for the next 15 days to avert any serious economic meltdown.
Speaking at a press conference after chairing an SOS meeting of key stakeholders representing all economic sectors at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on the current economic crisis, BMG Chairman Zubair Motiwala ruled out the possibility of a Sri Lanka-like crisis saying that Pakistan was a land of 220 million people and an agrarian country with very different dynamics.
Over 50 representatives of trade and industry, including prominent businessmen like Muhammad Ali Tabba, Aqeel Karim Dhedhi and Ali Jameel, attended the brainstorming session to find workable solutions to revive the deteriorating economy.
They called upon the government to immediately impose an economic emergency and fix the dollar rate for at least a month.
Motiwala and KCCI President Muhammad Idrees expressed deep concerns over the government’s non-serious attitude towards dealing with economic challenges, heightened political uncertainty, steep currency devaluation, ineffective SBP role and unregulated profiteering by banks.
He demanded that the SBP governor should be appointed as soon as possible to manage the affairs of the central bank.
The industries are unable to ascertain the selling price and manufacturing cost of their products amid such an intense level of exchange rate uncertainty, Mr Motiwala added.
Idrees said the decision to ban the import of raw materials to reduce import bill should be reconsidered as it will have adverse consequences on the economy as it will lead to halting the production processes, resulting in decreased progress, leading to reduced export quantity as well.
Meanwhile, Hyderabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Adeel Siddiqui in a statement on Thursday urged Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to impose an economic emergency without any delay and also consult all stakeholders to find out a solution to the foreign exchange crisis.
He said that a crisis like Sri Lanka was staring at Pakistan and deplored the fact that the federal government had yet to appoint the SBP governor.