LAHORE: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Dr Reza Baqir has said that the central bank was committed to serving those sectors that remained ignored in the past, including SMEs and women entrepreneurs.
During his visit to the Lahore Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Friday, Baqir said the SBP was focusing heavily on digital financial services and in this regard was chalking out a system where payments would be made in seconds.
He recalled that the apex bank had recently reduced interest rate by 6 per cent to facilitate businesses affected by Covid-19, nothing that exchange rate was now running in a two-way format. “We also postponed actual payments of about Rs650 billion, of which 90 per cent were beneficiary small businesses (microfinance bank borrowers).”
Baqir said the SBP was seriously considering LCCI’s demands regarding the Electronic Credit Information Bureau (ECIB), adding that a policy in this regard would be announced in the next few days.
Further highlighting the prudent measures of SBP to avert economic crisis, the SPB governor stated, “Debts of Rs200 billion had been restructured to assist businesses in their mark-up payments. Under the Prime Minister’s Employment Finance Scheme, Rs232 billion has been provided for the salaries of employees. Roshan Digital Account facility was launched for overseas Pakistanis, through which an account could be opened without going to the embassy and without verification of any document.”
He informed that a ‘Pakistan Credit Guarantee Corporation’ was being set up wherein banks would get 60pc risk cover on lending to SMEs. Under the markup subsidy scheme, small houses would be provided 3pc to 5pc financial assistance.
Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Mian Tariq Misbah said, “There are a large number of businesses who are not being able to clear their bank liabilities in time due to Covid-induced liquidity crisis, hence their names are included in Electronic Credit Information Bureau (eCIB). This makes it hard for them to secure credit from any financial institution. We would request the SBP to relax this condition till June 2021.”
He further observed that even after the customers fully settle their overdue payments amicably with the banks, their names were still reported in the eCIB under write-offs.
“Customers of all banks should be given access to check their own status in eCIB database and banks should intimate customers before reporting any overdue in eCIB, besides giving them reasonable time for reconciliation and settlement of overdue liabilities,” he suggested.
Misbah also highlighted the plight of small traders amid coronavirus and urged the SPB to devise new schemes of interest-free loans that could help the traders revive their businesses.