Open letter to Shahbaz Sharif

Published: October 18, 2011
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Being an industrialist, you and your industrialist friends will now have to pay your workforce overtime for making them work on a Saturday.

Dear Mr Shahbaz Sharif, 

If only you knew a little about economics and governance policies, I would not have been writing this letter today.

For the past couple of weeks I have been hearing and reading constant malicious criticism from you and your fellow political puppets on the Government of Pakistan’s policy on two weekly holidays. Keeping the power shortfall debate aside for which this policy has been implemented, I would like to state certain economic arguments in favour of this policy, which of course you would have known of, if you would have ever taken an economics course in school or had a sane and learned economist on your political party think tank team (I wonder if there is a think tank team).

Firstly, I would like to educate you on the indispensable economic concept of workforce productivity, which is the amount of goods and services that a worker produces in a given amount of time. It is worth noting that the revised regulation has certainly not decreased the number of working hours, which still stands at 43 hours per week, 7.5% above the global benchmark of 40 hours per week.  This revision in policy has, in fact, resulted in efficient allocation of work hours within a given week, which is evident by mere simple cost-benefit analysis of comparing the economic cost (fuel, transportation, utilities) of working on Saturdays against the amount of goods and services produced by the workforce in a half day.

I totally understand your fear of the two-day weekly holiday, and I also recognize the primary motive behind such stern resistance from your side. Being an industrialist, you and your industrialist friends will now have to pay your workforce overtime for making them work on a Saturday, which will surely impact your profitability and margins but then, what is the harm in sharing your margins with your own workforce in the form of overtime allowance?

Don’t we all want to eradicate the disparity of incomes between various classes and impede the capitalist greed?

Moving on let me introduce to you the concept of ‘consumption driven economic growth’ and diversification benefits which the economy shall reap from this two day weekly holiday structure. At a time when the central bank has taken expansionary policy measures by reducing the discount rate by 150 basis points, the add-on for providing consumers two-day weekly holidays shall act as an ideal catalyst for increasing domestic consumption and growth of the various untapped sectors of the economy, which includes internal tourism, hospitality and entertainment industry.

It is worth noting that during this year Eid holidays all major travel destinations in Pakistan were packed to the core with travellers literally sleeping inside their cars due to non-availability of accommodation facilities. Moreover, if you just travel around the urban cities of Pakistan on a weekend and look at the number of people dining out and exploring entertainment opportunities, you would realize the potential within this sector.

This simply implies that consumers are willing to consume and have high regard for travelling and entertainment, even under this distressed environment. Such consumer attitude is noticeable enough and private sector investment within this industry shall follow provided that the government continues its policy of providing adequate time to the labour force for leisure and entertainment, which shall fuel economic growth and development of underdeveloped sectors in the long run.

I would not go any further on this subject as I could probably keep writing forever but I would highly appreciate if you keep your personal interest aside and think as Pakistani and for the people of Pakistan.

Sincerely,

A citizen of Pakistan

Anique.Sewani

Anique Sewani

An investment banker at one of the largest banks in Pakistan, Anique is also a CFA charter holder and is currently studying economics at IBA Karachi. His passion is to work towards infrastructure development which will eventually fuel economic growth in Pakistan.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://KashifMD.com Kashif

    Thank you for this Anique. Just wondering if CM Sahib reads letters! He has been ignoring mine for years now! Recommend

  • Loller

    Anique- It’s good that you are critically looking at the policies and stances of our political parties but you have to get your facts right. Your blog sounds more like someone regurgitating from a textbook rather than someone who knows the ground realities and real world economic policies or how various industries run. The simple fact is that just because Saturday is a government holiday it does not mean that industries have to give their workers overtime. OT is calculated based off total hours worked and not on which days they are worked. This is a general rule in all manufacturing industries globally. Fact is, workers who work on Sundays or on weekends get the same hourly wage due to the fact that their shift timings rotate them on and off weekend work and at the end of the day the normal number of hours without going into OT.

    On the other hand, you raise some very good points on the consumer demands!Recommend

  • Noman

    @Loller:
    what are you on about? everyone in autralia gets paid double time on weekends. Recommend

  • junaid chughtai

    Not very rational article.Recommend

  • ustaad

    son, there is a difference between textbook and real world. grow up!Recommend

  • anonymous

    This nation does not need more holidays. What you fail to take into account is the enormous amounts of unscheduled holidays that one must give to works due to some reason or the other especially in Karachi, the economic hub of the country.
    Apart from the already scheduled public holidays, strikes, protests, rains, floods everything brings holidays with it.
    What this country needs is less holidays. Recommend

  • muhammad usman

    In pakistan,businessmen are exploiting the labour class and the present system calls for desperate remedy……even if the labourers get paid double,the miseries and plight of their life will not be diminished…….. the amount of salary should be enough to meet their basic expenses……….Recommend

  • Loller

    Noman- Everyone in australia does not get paid double OT on weekends. OT is a standard calculation globally. For example, if the country such as Australia has 38 hour work weeks, the workers can work 38 hours total over a period of 7 days and anything over that then got to OT pay which is either 2x or 1.5x regular hourly wage. In some industries or retail workers get paid double as a benefit from the employer but not because of the law. Either way, we’re getting away from the point of the blog which is to calling out how many of our politicians have their personal interests placed higher than national interests. It’s just that in this case, I don’t think the OT example he gave about our ‘industrialist’ CM is very accurate.Recommend

  • Sheheryar Khan

    really pathetic article. Just used one side of the economics to prove Mr Shahbaz wrong.Recommend

  • Rizwan

    @ Sheheryar Khan
    Yes – Everythings wrong with the article. Shahbaz Sharif should not be criticized at all – infact, he is worthy of praise and should be allowed to do as he pleases. He can sell the Governor’s mansion and other public landmarks (and might I add historical) as we don’t need that trash. I was always sick of hearing the “Lahore Lahore hai” slogan and want to see “Shabby” turn the city into a dump. Recommend

  • saheem

    one thing that the writer doesn’t take into account is the relationship between productivity and continuous working hours one works a day. Unfortunately the relation is inverse one i.e. if the number of hours per day increase, the productivity per hour per day will go down; productivity is one major factor that an industrialist want to push up too besides keeping his costs (pay budget) low that the writer has discussed.

    Now if the productivity goes down per hour, the same worker will be producing less over the week no matter the working hours remain same.

    As mentioned by some one that one also needs to consider the unscheduled/accidental holidays, and the hours when electricity and the gas in the industries is shut off. So one should really keep in mind the ground realities while copying from the text book.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Excellent text book piece. Ground realities in Pakistan are different. We are a developing country, a very very slow developing country and what we need is an ethos of work, discipline and honesty to be injected into us.
    In his case the sickness (power shortage) is created by incompetent and corrupt governance and the cure (more holidays to save power) appears ridiculous.
    It’s like giving a cancer patient Aspirins and telling him all will be well. Recommend

  • Anique Sewani

    Too all the critics out there:

    Firstly, I would like to clarify the concept of hourly wages in Pakistan. Labour laws are hardly implemented in Pakistan and most entrepreneurs and industrialist do not follow the structure of hourly wages in Pakistan so indeed the 6 working day concept favours them.

    With respect to the concept of accidental holidays is concerned, I do agree to the volume losses on strike days but in substance the volume and quantity demanded for a normal good remains the same. Wholesalers who criticize the idea of 6 day week need to understand the the fact that the base volume for quantity demanded shall remain the same and the only difference shall be the allocation of volume between the weekdays.

    At a time when the world is moving towards weekend economics, (please google it guys), it is very sad to hear such criticism from the educated class of Pakistan.

    and for those who think this is a very text book and bookish concept then feel free to discuss with me the economic rationale for the same. my email address is [email protected].

    Please keep your political interest aside and think like Pakistan. I can state global benchmarks to support my article. This is not a mere piece of writing, it is based on economic research conducted by seasoned economist. Please feel free to communicate with me.

    Regards,
    Citizen of PakistanRecommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    Good analysis. We would definitely like to see more of it. However, for our budding economist, would like to highlight few things (plz note that I am not a PML-N supporter, just explaining the economics as per my humble understanding):

    As mentioned by Loller, there are industry cycles and sector dynamics which necessitate operating on weekends just like weekdays.
    Interest rate changes don’t necessarily translate into higher consumption. Monetary triggers such as expansion in money supply don’t necessarily lead to high consumption since monetary changes work through many layers to finally affect the consumption. That is why monetarists have faced some heat in last 2 decades.
    Your first-hand observation on consumption trends might be different from the actual statistics on the ground. Furthermore, people spend very conservatively when they expect contraction in dispensable income flows and high levels of uncertainty. Even more, Pakistani economy is so far not like Japan where people are working so much that they don’t have time for spending money.
    Most importantly, many economic observers have criticised this policy because not only it will impact taxation revenue but also lead to significant contraction in economy, which always has a multiplier effect (For example, 1 PKR reduction will finally end up in 2 PKR reduction of national economic productivity because of interdependence of industries and consumption patterns), which means it will have domino effect on shrinking the already shrinking economic pie.

    Lastly, economics is a monster that is yet to be tamed by giants such as Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke (US Fed Reserve Chairman). That said, it was certainly enjoyable reading your article though. Please keep writing.Recommend

  • Noman

    @saheem:
    i guess shabby should concentrate on law and order situation plus the energy sector a bit more than the holidays. Recommend

  • gp65

    I don’t think anyone had blanket objections to the 5 day policy but specific objections. Such as if banks, customs, railways, ports – basically the key drivers of the economy are closed 2 days a week, EVEN IF the number of working hours remained identical, there would still be cycletime delays that would be experienced by customers of export houses etc. and might impact the comeptitiveness of Pakistani goods.

    Second point that had been mentioned by those that a problem with this change is that while technically Friday is a full working day, even currently a lot of people go AWOL after the jummah namaz in afternoon. So if Saturday is made a holiday, the number of people who would goof of from Friday afternoon onwards would increase.

    Finally there are economies driven by consumer spending and investment spending. The problems with an economic growth being driven primarily by consumer spending have come to a head in the US and UK. Countries in our subcontinent,like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh which are highly deficient in anfrastructure are driven by investment spending. Higher savings (lower consumer spending) help with higher investments. Already Pakistan’s savings are amongst the lowest in our subcontinent which is becoming a constraint to Pakistan’s growth as the absence of power, absece of railway locomotives etc has a direct impact on reducing growth rate. So what Pakistan needs is more savings NOT more consumer spending.. Recommend

  • Amjad

    I think you need to send your letters to the CM of the other provinces because Punjab remains the best run province in Pakistan due to the efforts of Shahbaz Sharif. That’s why the majority of the population there supports him.Recommend

  • xOYA

    wow amazing but can shahbaz read english hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmRecommend

  • Concerned

    Dear Anique,

    Your article seems to be a product of your own concerns regarding your Saturday holiday getting called back given the differences in stances of the different provinces. The rest of the reasons provided by you just go on to show that just by enrolling yourself for an Economics program you have started to believe that you are already a pro at all such matters. But still at least you bothered to voice your concerns unlike the rest!

    I being a layman can only tell you this – Friday is almost a half day , with the two hour break for Friday prayers, whatever s left of the second half just passes by. And no our people do not need an extra day to spend more! Those who want to spend , spend it none the less….just go check the waiting outside Hardees, or the full house for a late night show at Atrium!

    Shahbaz Sharif probably has personal reasons to bash the extra holiday but then so do you!Recommend

  • Fahad

    bang on targetRecommend

  • Mazhar Hussain

    Strange! How did u write these type of things. Your economic philosophical mumbo jumbo’s has nothing to do with ground reality. For your kind information Sharif brothers are managing very excellent workforce and they are satisfied people. Any ways its good that atleast You are thinking for Pakistan . Keep your book reading up.Recommend

  • Bloom

    Excellent article however it was strange to see someone writing against N-League otherwise the favourite passtime for writers and speakers now a days to talk against PPPRecommend

  • Acha bacha

    @ustaad:
    See h hours have been passed yet no one has recommended your comment. That pretty clear to you now that you need to grown up or think this matter rationally. Sorry and do not take offense.Recommend

  • Acha bacha

    @Bloom:
    N-league wale aint doodh k dulhe hue. We know that how much capital they have accumulated in their regimes. These both brothers are one of richest persons of Pakistan. We also know that they weren’t affluent by birth. Hence, that’s all because of their immense corruption that today they are richy rich. You need to wake up bloom bhai. PPP aint the one to be blamed. :)Recommend

  • Acha bacha

    So far Anique’s article is concerned, I totally agree with the arguments that he presented in the light of economics. Well done Anique bhai to open eyes of those who are duped by the sleight of hands of these N-brothers. Thumbs up for what u have jotted in this article. Recommend

  • waqas sahab

    Simply Superb, Outstanding and a well very written article. Hats off to u. Keep it up!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • CM Shahbaz Sharif

    Thankyou Anique Sewani for your concerned letter. I will try looking into the matter with my cabinet and come up with a revised proposal for this issue.
    Meanwhile, you may count your days.

    Good day.
    Khadim-e-Ala PunjabRecommend

  • http://www.sewani.com karim

    @Sheheryar Khan: Recommend

  • http://www.sewani.com karim

    Anique
    Excellent article well you have tried to draw the attention of the cm of punjab i have serious doubts if he or his think tank {if he has any}will go through your letter.

    tT

    t*Recommend

  • Imtiaz Zubair

    Dear Mr. Sewani,

    *I hope this finds you in the best of spirits! *

    First of all I want to let you know that I support the idea of 5 Day Work Week, but strongly disagree with the way you presented your point.

    As per you blog that you want to educate Mr. Sharif gives me an idea that you may have read a couple of books on Economics. Effective Business communication is a key to success now a days and you may be aware of the facts that in a civilised world where the masses observe the 5 days work week do not present their view point by dwarfing the opponents personality.

    It more looked like you were expressing immense hate and disrespect to the person rather then arguing on an important point.

    That is not the way to respond to a person or political party who bagged millions of votes as tolerance is the most repeatedly preached subject in business management.

    You may have differences with Mr. Sharif and his party but we should show mutual respect to our elders and public figures as a whole and at the same time expect them to do so as well.

    I am sure Mr. Sharif will not be annoyed with your blog as he is a tough man and a workaholic only thinking to help and make our country prosper by far then any other political entity in Pakistan.

    You are free to have your point of view and if it is shared properly it will have weight otherwise it just exposes the person and people forget about the idea presented.

    Regards,
    Imtiaz Zubair
    Karachi Recommend

  • Lavender

    This is something i’d call a, sort of, shallow analysis. yes as rightly said by readers the ground realities are different. and especially the things you have mentioned about the tourism and entertainment industry booming if 2 holidays are given a week, well then that is only for the people who can afford it. and frankly, that is way limited. what about the rest ? In the other sense, only the industrialists, again will enjoy two luxury holidays instead of one, yeah? the workers, the labor, will still not be able to do really drastically increase the business of entertainment industry. hence, it’s not a well thought article. probably who wrote this is himself a well off person and already enjoys his weekends in touring around and entertaining himself which he thinks, by giving two holidays, the labor class will get so much OT and stuff that they will come at par with this super rich writer of the article. he has not thought of the only entertainment this class can afford which will bring a bigger disaster to this country and that is population boom ! Firdous Ashiq Awan raised this point very wisely and with a foresight which this article lacks. According to her, the labor class will only contribute to a population rise in the form of entertainment if given two holidays. Ridiculous but so true, isn’t it :DRecommend

  • Lavender

    This is a, sort of, shallow analysis. yes as rightly said by readers the ground realities are different. and especially the things you have mentioned about the tourism and entertainment industry booming if 2 holidays are given a week, well then that is only for the people who can afford it. and frankly, that is way limited. what about the rest ? In other sense, only the industrialists and like, again will enjoy two luxury holidays instead of one, yeah? the workers, the labor, will still not be able to really drastically increase the business of entertainment/tourism industry. hence, it’s not a well thought article. probably who wrote this is himself a well off person and already enjoys his weekends in touring around and entertaining himself which he thinks, by giving two holidays, the labor class will get so much OT and stuff that they will come at par with this super rich writer of the article. he has not thought of the only entertainment this class spending two holidays staying at home, can afford which will bring a bigger disaster to this country and that is population boom ! Firdous Ashiq Awan raised this point very wisely and with a foresight which this article lacks. According to her, the labor class will only contribute to a population rise in the form of entertainment if given two holidays. Ridiculous but so true, isn’t it :D The writer thought that the workers getting OT will be able to spend it going to sheesha lounges, movies, making expeditions to the northern areas, dining out and more shopping? well then widen your outlook, get to know the masses of Pakistan who really can’t do this so often and that too weekly ! Recommend

  • http://www.sewani.com karim

    @CM Shahbaz Sharif:
    what do you mean by saying “count your days”can you talk senseRecommend

  • http://www.sewani.com karim

    @Sheheryar Khan:
    well i did’nt want to recommend it was an error ,it is not pathetic at all you look to be a great fan of the SHARIFS.Recommend

  • Tanzil Gillani

    Seems like more of an miscalculated, emotional outburst.
    Poor facts and figures provided and the basic stance of the writing is null and void that industries would have to pay for the overtime if government allows 2 weekly offs.
    I believe writings on blogs and that too on a platform like this shall go for a quality check before they are actually put here for reading.Recommend

  • FAIZAN MOTEN

    Dear Mr. Sewani,
    Ur point of view seems to be clear in this letter but i may sound byes by saying i don’t agree to what u say to some extend, I am a member of the cottage industry and majority of my labor buys grocery on daily bases, More then 25% of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line which means every forth Pakistani can not afford a vacations in the northern areas of Pakistan
    Two day off policy will not help the down word going figures of F.D.I as 29.7% decrease in FDI including Privatization (which has been non) compared to last year (2010), To bring up these figures and to attract investments we need to bring a more stiff monotry policy and we must bring policies that can convince both domestic and foreign investors to inject there money into Pakistan’s economy
    In simple words its an economic crises where we are facing low productivity due to short fall of energy and other issues and my conclusion would be to work without counting the days on the calender Recommend

  • Salman Ahmad

    To be honest I don’t like PML(N) or any of it’s leaders however this 2 day holiday thing is just a farce, i believe instead of aiming at the root cause of the power crisis we are just trying to manage it by sometimes calling for 2 day holiday per week or closing the shops or implementing the Daylight saving etc. Recommend

  • adnan

    two day holiday is a positive step.the life of bankers had become miserable.bankers normally work from 9 to 8 pm.social life of bankers was almost finished.atleat now they will have two days off to spend some time with family.working hours in a week are stil same.
    it will also save lot of fuel cost.Recommend

  • Faisal Mazhar

    Can someone please translate this letter in URDU or PUNJABI or whatever language this CM understands so that he gets what the writer is trying to say.Recommend

  • http://www.ahmadhammad.com Ahmad Hammad

    Well, instead of introducing 2 holidays a week, the federal government should have tried to change the bad habits of doing businesses till late at night and then starting in almost the noon.
    Governments change the habits of the nations by leading by example. Would that the federal government had some guts to change the fate of the nation in positivity, in place of playing chess-politics with the controversial and discredible parties of the country e.g. PML-Q which is with the PPP only for the sake of getting an amnesty for Moonis…Recommend

  • Zulfiqar Shah

    No Labor laws, no human rights and above all, no economics being practiced in our very land. Its better we must get down to point number one, which is to ‘literate yourself’. Second, consensus and third, to seek public confidence for XYZ political group in which you are in.

    Two days off in a week doesn’t at all portray a productive system (or even willing to be one). I see it no more than another conspiracy.

    Lets move ahead guys. We are not even heard.Recommend

  • Keen Observer

    Although I agree to an extent with what you have said; your letter doesn’t present a very cohesive well-rounded argument. You take a very single sided view of things and a good economist would never do that! =] I suggest you work a bit more on seeing things from every angle, or as an economist would say, from the perspective of all stakeholders involved. After all, at the end of the day, it is the economic problem that all of us are trying to solve!Recommend

  • Stevenson

    Sounds like you are just jealous of the fact that Shahbaz Sharif is the only politician in Pakistan who has done genuine good work which is why Punjab is the most developed and peaceful place in Pakistan. People vote for him because he has done well- and you know he comes from a middle class background of hard working simple business people.Recommend

  • Majid Urrehman

    In case one has missed this comment by muhammad usman, “In pakistan,businessmen are exploiting the labour class and the present system calls for desperate remedy……even if the labourers get paid double,the miseries and plight of their life will not be diminished…….. the amount of salary should be enough to meet their basic expenses……….”
    This is the whole issue with Pakistan that amount of salary should be enough to meet the basic expensedRecommend

  • Naveen Ahmed

    To all of you who are putting accross the productivity, poverty and “ground realities” arguments in support of Saturday as workday, please understand that people/the working class are NOT slaves. We cannot keep them poor and exploited forever. Let the poor guy make some extra money Monday through Friday and let him take a break on Saturdays. It keeps the workforce well-fed, happier and motivated. This country has been working Saturdays since forever, and the “ground reality” is that we are no closer to Japan than when we started out. We’re not talking economics out of the book. We like to believe that most people in the working class are NOT slackers and most people in the working class would like to be paid more than the minimum wages, have better working conditions, and be treated as employees and not servants. Servants serve and stop there. Employees rise above the bare minimum and help you reach higher. Recommend