ISLAMABAD-Ahsan Zafar Bakhtawari, president of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), on Wednesday urged the government to re-activate the SME Bank to provide easy financing options to the SME sector as its winding up would deprive SMEs of the affordable credit facility.
He said that already SMEs are facing great problems in getting credit from banks as the SME sector in Pakistan receives only 6-7% of the private sector financing as compared to 25% in Bangladesh and 18% in India. He said that the closure of SME Bank would create more hurdles for SMEs in expansion and growth. He said this while talking to a delegation of employees’ unions that called on him led by Zahoor Awan, Chairman, Pakistan Workers Federation’s Steering Committee.
Mian Akram Farid, Chairman (Central) Employers Federation of Pakistan, President SME Bank Employees Union, President Punjab Bank Employees Union, President Zarai Taraqiati Bank Employees Union, President State Life Insurance Corporation Employees Union were in the delegation.
Zafar Bakhtawari, former President ICCI & Secretary General UBJ Pakistan, and Mehfooz Elahi, former President ICCI, were also present on the occasion. Ahsan Bakhtawari lauded the efforts of Pakistan Workers Federation for protection of workers rights and legislative reforms in labor laws and assured that ICCI would try to raise their genuine concerns with the relevant quarters for redress.
Speaking on the occasion, Zahoor Awan, Chairman, Pakistan Workers Federation’s Steering Committee shared the concerns of SME Bank employees due to its planned closure and urged the government to address their concerns. He said that the SME Bank was established to exclusively meet the financing needs of the SME sector and stimulate their growth, but its closure would be a setback for SMEs. He said that the Executive Committee of SIFC has reportedly directed the Ministry of Industries and Production for re-activation planof SME Bank and hoped that the government would work for its revival for the benefit of SMEs.
Mian Akram Farid, Chairman (Central) Employers Federation of Pakistan, said that the SMEs are the backbone of the economy and the government should take measures to strengthen the SME bank in order to facilitate the better growth of SMEs. Faad Waheed, Senior Vice President ICCI, said that Pakistan needs to boost industrialization to revive its economy and focus on the better development of SMEs that can help achieve this goal.
Engr. Azhar ul Islam Zafar, Vice President ICCI, said that instead of considering privatizing SME Bank, the government should get the input of its employees for its revival. The presidents of Employees Unions of SME Bank, Bank of Punjab, Zarai Taraqiati Bank and State Life Insurance of Pakistan also showed concerns on the winding down of SME Bank and underscored the need to ensure better protection of workers rights.