Islamabad:- Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs) need enabling policy measures to recover from the worst impacts of Covid19 pandemic. The provincial governments also need to evaluate the situation to respond with urgent facilitation to save such business. The experts and analysts on the economy from public and private sectors said this while sharing their views with the participants at online consultative dialogue ‘Better business regulation for SME sector in Punjab Province’ organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Wednesday.
Director (Projects and Policy), Punjab Board of Investment and Trade, Mr Sohail Qadiri, informed the participants that his institution was aiming to create a buying house platform for the capacity building services to SMEs and to help them in exploring global markets. He suggested that the institutions such as Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (SMEDA) and Punjab Small Industries Corporation (PSIC) need to collaborate and help SMEs to mitigate Covid19 related difficulties.
The needs of SMEs should also be prioritized in the relev ant policies and efforts so that more clusters of smaller firms could be created, he added.
Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director, SDPI, while moderating the discussion, opined that it was need of the hour for SECP to ease laws for SMEs and startups across the country. He said that the current laws are preventing idle liquidity in the economy to move from real estate to investments in innovative firms. Likewise, Pakistani diaspora, willing to invest in Pakistan, continues to complain of lack of credible venture capital and crowdsourcing framework. Therefore, SECP needs to evaluate the existing facilitation and regulatory framework. An evaluation is also desired to see if anticipated gains from SECP’s startup portal, facilitation desk and regulatory Sandbox initiatives were achieved.
“Deeper consultation with private sector and think tanks around amendments to the private equity and venture capital regulatory framework is required,” Ahmed said and added further that the provincial government also needs to study the rise in business costs related to compliance with Covid19 related SOPs.
Founding President of the Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry-Lahore Division, Dr Shehla Javed Akram, was of view that there is a lack of interest on the part of the government to e ngage businesses and understand their issues. She added further that the women-led businesses even find it more difficult to access the refinance facility and collateral-free loan facility announced by the State Bank of Pakistan and likewise, the commercial banks don’t understand the problems faced by women-led SMEs. The Punjab government needs to learn from peer economies and how they have supported SMEs, particularly women-led businesses. The central banks in other countries have been more innovative in launching support schemes for women-led enterprises.
Mr Kamran Niazi from USAID, on the occasion highlighted the need to unpack which SMEs need more support in Covid19 times. The provincial governments need to study how to integrate rural SMEs with m ajor markets in mainstream cities and urban centers in a better manner. Moreover, e-commerce policy and interventions should be customized to bring consumers from rural areas online, he concluded. He also said that the donor organisations trying to help Pakistan face difficulties as they cannot plan their support better in the absence of timely and credible data on SMEs.
Ms Ammara Farooq Malik, a social entrepreneur, lamented that no assessment has been made yet on how Covid19 has impacted social enterprises across the country. In this sector, she said, several women work from home or online, but they have not been supported through any intervention by Punjab government. The country is in dire need of a legal framework for social enterprises.
Mr Hassan Murtaza, researcher at SDPI highlighted the need for the capacity building of SMEs to explore various new markets. Ahad Nazir, Head, Center for Private Sector Engagement, SDPI, earlier, shared various aspects of the current crises with the participants and said that around 7 million people could be affected if SMEs are faced with prolonged impacts of Covid19 pandemic. Therefore, right policy measures are the need of the hour to revive such business. He also said that the SMEs in Punjab also wish to see how they will benefit from the ongoing implementation of CPEC projects and what are the future opportunities in engagement with China.