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FAISALABAD: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is contemplating to introduce a separate scheme to facilitate small traders in order to overcome the losses incurred due to Covid-19 lockdown, said SBP Governor Dr Reza Baqir.

Baqir was addressing a video link conference in which presidents of various Chambers of Commerce & Industry participated to directly discuss their issues relating to SBP refinance scheme. He said SBP had immediately introduced refinance scheme to pay the salaries of staff during lockdown period. "The ultimate objective of this scheme was to avoid layoffs and contain unemployment in the country in wake of Covid-19 lockdown.

SBP governor said some sectors were expressing apprehensions regarding the implementation of this scheme. Baqir told that he had decided to directly contact the various chambers in order to get direct feedback from them. He said SBP is regularly monitoring this scheme to remove the unnecessary bottlenecks. He told that the contact numbers of concerned officials of SBP and commercial banks will be shared on 'whatsapp' so that they could immediately communicate with the concerned person of their bank.

Reza Baqir said he will himself remain in touch with chambers to get direct feedback regarding this refinance scheme. About small traders, he told that a separate scheme would be introduced. "It will accommodate the small traders who are unaware of their projected finance needs and have no balance sheet for the last three years", he said that told that chief managers of SBP across the county have been directed to hold monthly meetings to revive status of refinance scheme.

He said concerned chambers and senior bank officials of that particular area should also be invited to attend this meeting.

Reza Baqir assured that SBP will provide maximum facilitation to the private sector for the early revival of economy and in this connection the process of consultation will continue on regular basis.

Earlier, Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FCCI) president Rana Muhammad Sikandar Azam Khan appreciated the efforts of SBP under the dynamic leadership of Reza Baqir. He particularly mentioned the visit of SBP governor to FCCI during Dec 2019 and said he has brought down the interest rate in single digit during this short period.

Regarding Faisalabad, he told that it has privilege to contribute 60 to 65 percent share towards the total textile export of Pakistan. He further told that it has large numbers of composite and state of the art industrial units but the main strength of this city is its SME sector. He quoted power looms, embroidery, sizing, processing, knitting and other sectors and told that most of these small units have contract labors and pay their emoluments on daily basis. ''Due to this prevalent system, they are unable to fulfill the basic condition of the refinance scheme," he said and added that SBP should direct commercial banks to accept the affidavit or cheque from the applicants enabling them to avail from this refinance scheme.

Rana Sikandar appreciated the various schemes of SBP but said the concerned commercial banks are not cooperating; "If only 10 percent implementation on these schemes were ensured, it will settle down most of the problems of small traders," he opined. Similarly cheap loan should also be offered to the factory owner for the replacement of machinery.

The video link conference was also attended by Islamabad, Gujranwala, Quetta, Peshawar, Mirpur and Multan Chambers in addition to FCCI vice president Bilal Waheed Sheikh.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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