Businessmen have criticised the delay in approval of small and medium enterprises (SME) policy despite government claims of giving priority to small businesses.

In a statement on Wednesday, Pakistan Businesses Forum Vice President Ahmad Jawad urged the federal government to introduce the policy without unnecessary delay.

“Small and medium enterprises are indispensable for the progress of the nation and countries all over the world associate their growth to a strong and thriving SME sector,” he said. “Furthermore, small businesses hold immense potential for boosting growth and reinforcing the strength of the economy at a time of cut-throat competition.”

According to him, the importance of SME sector can be gauged from its contribution to the leading and emerging economies of the world.

He pointed out that countries like Japan, China, Brazil, India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka relied heavily on SME development for economic growth.

He recalled that the Ministry of Industries and Production, in consultation with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (Smeda), had prepared a draft of the National SME Policy 2019 and sent it to board members for the feedback of stakeholders. However, no significant progress could be made, he lamented.

Citing figures, he added that the SME sector contributed 40% to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Pakistan and provided employment to a massive chunk of non-agricultural labour force.

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Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME) President Zulfikar Thaver expressed disappointment over the delay in finalisation of the policy.

He stressed the need for prioritising the Credit Guarantee Scheme for the SME sector and synchronising it with priority sectors through initial seed money from the government.

“Such a move will enhance SME access to loans and create a conducive environment for banks,” he said. “It will also enhance commercial activity, employment generation, productivity and economic growth.”

Thaver termed the revival of SME Bank vital for development of the sector. He also called for making Exim Bank active so that it could serve small businesses.

He emphasised that Export Credit Guarantee Insurance Company could also be directed to cover shipments of SMEs to third world countries with affordable premium.

“The sector needs an SME business portal for marketing their products in overseas markets,” he said.

He lamented that Smeda, a dedicated institution for the promotion and development of SMEs, lacked the board of directors.

“The last SME policy was introduced in 2007 and efforts are being made to draft a comprehensive policy but slow progress is a setback to the sector,” said Thaver.

SME sector expert Faud Garib said that he told ministers and officials in a meeting that small-scale farmers needed support for mechanisation and modernisation of farms to increase crop yields and their quality. “Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and the sector needs attention as it is the source of all raw materials,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2021.

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