NBP roundtable reviews Covid-19 microfinance concerns

Updated 05 May 2020

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Stakeholders commit to work together to help sustain and support low income households. — APP/File
Stakeholders commit to work together to help sustain and support low income households. — APP/File

KARACHI: The National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) hosted a virtual roundtable meeting recently to discuss the issues and challenges facing the non-bank microfinance institutions (NBMFIs) and their customers as a consequence of the economic slowdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to a press release, the roundtable was attended by the CEOs of Pakistan’s largest NBMFIs, including the National Rural Support Programme, Kashf Foundation, Damen Support Programme, SAFCO Support Programme, Thardeep Foundation, Rural Community Development Programme and Agahi.

The consultation was presided and initiated on the leadership of NBP president Arif Usmani, and included chairman Zubyr Soomro and Sadaffe Abid, NBP director of the chair of inclusive development committee. Key sector players such as the CEOs of Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN) and the Pakistan Microfinance Investment Company (PMIC) were also invited to examine the state of the microfinance industry and explore opportunities to develop a sector wide approach, the statement added.

The purpose of the April 23 roundtable was to assess the nature, size and scale of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the microfinance clients’ income and well-being. The microfinance sector reached over seven million borrowers across the country, 50pc of whom were women. The NBP chairman, in his opening remarks, urged the microfinance players to take a long term approach, strengthen their lending standards, systems and manage resources efficiently. The NBMFIs appreciated the action of the SECP for allowing them to defer loan payments from their borrowers to ease the financial burden on low-income households.

The roundtable concluded with a commitment that the NBMFIs, PMN, PMIC and NBP would work together to help sustain and support low income households during the Covid-19 pandemic. With the economic well-being of millions of low income households intrinsically linked to the well-being of the NBMFIs a holistic approach must be undertaken, it said.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2020