KARACHI:

Industrialists of Karachi have announced a strike on December 4 to protest the whopping and unaffordable gas tariffs, which have made all seven industrial zones of the port city unviable and uncompetitive.

They have called for applying forthwith the reduced gas tariff of Rs1,350 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) determined by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra).

Other industrialists and trade bodies of Sindh and Balochistan including the Lasbela Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Nooriabad, Kotri and Hyderabad had expressed their solidarity and fully supported a complete shutdown.

Speaking to journalists at a press conference held at the conference office of the SITE Association of Industry (SAI) on Thursday, the industrialists said it was the third press conference in a series of protests against the soaring rates of gas but no top government official or policymaker had approached the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry to fix the problems.

They wore black armbands and banners were hanging on walls with demands that the government do justice with the industrialists of Karachi and Sindh.

“After a series of protests and press conferences, now we announce a complete closure of all industries on December 4 (Monday), if the legitimate demand of fixing gas tariff at Rs1,350 per mmBtu is not met by the government,” said an industry leader.

Only the industries of Karachi export $47.69 million (or Rs13,754 million) of goods per day. If industrial zones of the port city are closed just for one day, it will be a major loss to the national economy.

Businessmen had appealed to the government to reduce gas tariffs to Rs1,350 per mmBtu, which had been determined by Ogra as the 100% cost of gas including around 22% profit for Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), said Businessmen Group Vice Chairman Jawed Bilwani.

He said the new gas tariffs had burdened industries with a cross-subsidy for providing unfair support to fertiliser, power and domestic sectors.

Read: Industrialists denounce gas tariff hike

“The industry demands fair gas tariffs and will never accept the unbearable rates ranging from Rs2,100 to Rs2,600 per mmBtu, which have been imposed to please the fertiliser, domestic and power sectors, and penalise the industrial sector that forms the backbone of the economy,” he reiterated.

SAI President Muhammad Kamran Arbi urged the government to hold a meeting with industry stakeholders to reach consensus on gas prices since the existing tariffs had outgrown the manufacturing costs.

“If a small unit was paying a gas bill of Rs1 million, now it has to foot the bill of around Rs2 million. Around 71 industrialists of the SAI have approached and informed me that they are unable to run their units in the current economic crisis,” he revealed.

Arbi said the business community expected the promised winter package for incremental consumption of electricity as it was agreed to provide electricity at a reduced tariff of Rs20 per unit on incremental consumption during four months of winter.

Federal B Area Association of Trade and Industry (FBATI) President Syed Raza Hussain said high tariffs took a heavy toll on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which had started reducing their operations.

“If a factory used to run three shifts, it is now running two shifts. SMEs can be closed gradually and workers will be rendered unemployed,” he added.

Earlier, a large number of industry workers protested outside the SAI.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2023.

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