LAHORE: The policy for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has been formulated and is expected to be launched on November 11 by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority’s (Smeda) CEO Hashim Raza said on Saturday.

Speaking at the Lahore Chambers of Commerce & Industry (LCCI), he said the policy has been prepared in consultation with the stakeholders. “The issues cropping up during the implementation will also be reviewed. A separate section has been introduced in the policy to support women entrepreneurs,” he added.

He said that the regulatory regime is being eased under the policy while SMEs will have to prepare only a few NOCs. Others are being abolished in the upcoming policy.

He said government departments will be bound to give approvals to the SMEs in 30 days while different departments, including Social Security, Labour, Punjab Food Authority and Environment, will not be visiting SMEs for inspection without schedule and prior approval.

Regulatory regime being eased; plan aims to support women entrepreneurs

Mr Raza agreed that lack of access to financing is the biggest challenge facing the SMEs.

“Lack of documentation and awareness is one of the biggest issues of the SME sector. According to a survey of Smeda, 78 per cent SMEs do not avail bank facility because they are undocumented or have no awareness,” he added.

The Smeda CEO stressed that policy makers should realise that the only solution to economic challenges was to promote and support the SMEs. “We have to increase our production base and labour capacity,” he added. He further stated that Smeda was ready to collaborate with the LCCI for setting up an incubation centre for young entrepreneurs and new business starters.

LCCI President Mian Nauman Kabir said that according to estimates, there were well over five million SMEs in Pakistan and around 65pc of them were based in Punjab.

“One persistent issue which is hampering the growth of SMEs is inadequate access to finance. The SMEs only get 6.2pc of private sector financing while the number of SME borrowers is just around 172,000. It is a worrying sign that the number of SME borrowers is declining consistently,” he added.

We have always advocated for introduction of innovative low-cost financing schemes for SMEs with minimal documentary and no collateral requirements, the LCCI president said.

“Considering the importance of SME sector, LCCI has a dedicated Standing Committee on SMEs which remains actively engaged in highlighting the issues of SME sector. LCCI and Smeda should increase collaboration for organising training programmes and workshops. LCCI also aims to organise a business plan competition next year where we would involve leading education institutions of the country. Smeda should also partner with the LCCI in this initiative,” he added.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2021

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