Industrialists in Karachi have called a strike on December 4 to protest the exorbitant and unaffordable gas tariffs, which have made all seven industrial zones of the port city unviable and uncompetitive.
They demanded that the reduced gas tariff of Rs 1,350 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) set by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) be implemented immediately.
Other industrialists and trade bodies of Sindh and Balochistan including Lasbela Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Nooriabad, Kotri and Hyderabad had expressed their solidarity and fully supported the complete shutdown.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference held at the SITE Association of Industry (SAI) conference office on Thursday, industrialists said it was the third press conference in a series of protests against skyrocketing gas prices, but no top government official or the policy maker had approached the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry to rectify the problems.
They wore black armbands and hung banners on the walls demanding that the government do justice to the industrialists of Karachi and Sindh.
“After a series of protests and press conferences, we now announce a complete shutdown of all industries on December 4 (Monday) if the legitimate demand to fix gas tariff at Rs 1,350 per mmBtu is not met by the government,” the leader said of the industry.
Karachi’s industries alone export $47.69 million (or Rs 13.754 million) worth of goods per day. If the port city’s industrial zones are closed for just one day, it will be a great loss to the national economy.
The businessmen had appealed to the government to reduce gas tariffs to Rs 1,350 per mmBtu, which was set by Ogra as the 100% cost of natural gas including about 22% profit for Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), said Jawed Businessmen Group Vice President. Bilwani.
He said the new gas tariffs have burdened industries with cross-subsidy to provide unfair support to fertilizer, power and domestic sectors.
Reading: Industrialists complain about the increase in natural gas tariffs
“The industry demands fair gas tariffs and will never accept the unaffordable rates ranging from Rs 2,100 to 2,600 per mmBtu, which have been imposed to please the fertilizer, household and electrical sectors and punish the industrial sector which the economy is its backbone”, he repeated.
SAI President Muhammad Kamran Arbi urged the government to hold a meeting with industry stakeholders to reach a consensus on gas prices as the existing duties had exceeded the cost of construction.
“If a small unit used to pay a gas bill of Rs 1 million, now it has to pay the bill of about Rs 2 million. About 71 SAI industrialists have approached and informed me that they are unable to operate their units in the current economic crisis,” he disclosed.
Arbi said the business community was waiting for the promised winter package for incremental power consumption as it was agreed to provide electricity at a reduced tariff of Rs20 per unit for incremental consumption during the four months of winter.
Federal Association of Trade and Industry (FBATI) president Syed Raza Hussain said the high tariffs had severely affected small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which had started reducing their operations.
“If a factory used to operate in three shifts, now it operates in two shifts. The media can be gradually shut down and the workers will be unemployed,” he added.
Earlier, a large number of industry workers protested outside the SAI.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 1St2023.
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