LAHORE: The All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Punjab Chairman Adil Bashir demanded of the government to freeze the interest rate on loans and urged the State Bank of Pakistan to issue directions to banks for suspension of interest on long-term as well as working capital loans and advances for a period of 3 months from April 2020 till June 30, 2020.

In a statement issued here on Thursday, Adil Bashir said that Rs100 billion relief announced by the prime minister could be utilized to defray this cost.

He also said that the government should make arrangements for deferment of installments against all the loans for a period of one year and issue a clear Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to restart production and protection of jobs. He proposed setting up of monitoring committees at the district and provincial levels to monitor production activities at the mills.

The Punjab APTMA chairman said payment of utility bills of the textile industry should be deferred by three months, adding that the government should also direct the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for immediate payment of all the sales tax refunds up to 80 percent of the claim within 72 hours of the filing of refund claims.

Adil was of the view that in case the lockdown continued beyond one month, the government should share the burden of salaries from the funds of Social Security, the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution, the Workers Welfare Funds and such other arrangements under the control of the government.

He said major buying chains of textile products, namely, Inditex Group, JC Penney, Mango, H&M, GAP, Levis, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Nike, American Eagle and IKEA had already suspended operations, and many other chains and stores were in the process of closing down their operations as well.

The industry estimates suggest that more than 50 percent of the orders that were to be shipped in the next 30 days had been either deferred or cancelled altogether.

It would add pressure on the cash flow and force many industries into laying off workers especially when there were rampant reports that the big buyers were filing for bankruptcies.

In addition to setbacks to exports, he said, COVID-19 had also adversely affected domestic commerce due to the lockdown and closing down of all the shopping outlets.

He expressed his hope that the government would streamline the issues faced by the textile industry without delay in the larger interests of exports, investments and employment in the country.