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Our Correspondent

The Express Tribune

Published Date: Aug 26, 2020

Hit by Covid-19: Pakistan’s export sector lacks credit, financing facilities to revive business

Pakistan’s export sector has been badly hit by the Covid-19 outbreak and lacks credit and financing facilities needed to revive business and trade, said experts from the business and finance industry.

Addressing an online dialogue on “Credit and finance issues faced by exporters amid Covid-19” on Tuesday, they shared that all financing schemes should be designed to cater to the urgent need of this sector.

State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Senior Joint Director Muhammad Arshad Khan informed dialogue participants that the central bank had increased financing for exporters.

“Besides, the Long Term Financing Facility (LTFF) is no more limited to just traditional exporting sectors but is also open for potential exporters and new sectors of the economy.”

In view of Covid-19, he said, eligibility conditions for accessing the Export Finance Scheme (EFS) and the LTFF had also been relaxed. “Likewise, collateral-free support to small IT exporters in Pakistan is also being viewed by the SBP at present,” Khan added.

Also present on the occasion, SBP Joint Director Muhammad Azam highlighted the other measures aimed at facilitating exporters.

He said small and medium enterprise (SME) borrowers had already been allowed one-year extension in the repayment of loans. Besides, the SBP, along with its field offices, continued to conduct capacity building and awareness sessions for the SMEs to inform them about how to access finance, he added.

Azam suggested that all SME finance institutions should offer advisory services to small businesses and start-ups whereas banks should open dedicated hand-holding units for the SMEs.

Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA) Secretary General Azizullah Goheer was of the view that commercial banks also needed to offer concessionary loans to exporters.

He stressed the SBP’s local and field offices should interact more with local businesses. “Likewise, Covid-19-related financing should be provided in the quickest possible manner.”

All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) General Secretary for Punjab Chapter Kamran Arshad said more facilitation was needed to help exporters who supplied to the countries worst hit by the impact of Covid-19.

He suggested that the SBP could establish its own insurance mechanism and earn revenue.

Meanwhile, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) Joint Executive Director Dr Vaqar Ahmed said recent evaluation of the SBP’s export financing schemes should lead to export diversification.

“These schemes also need to be designed with a view to encouraging exporters to find markets in new countries.”

He added that the central bank was currently incurring high internal costs for offering subsidised export credit that needed to be lowered by reconsidering the refinance rates which the SBP offered to commercial banks.

He stressed the need for the SBP field offices to engage in regular public-private dialogue and to report back their findings to the head office so that policies were responsive to small exporters in second-tier cities and rural areas.

“The other area that should be carefully viewed is that luring foreign investment in Pakistan’s IT industry has been difficult due to the lack of export facilitation for this sector,” he added.

Pakistan Banks Association official Fareed Vardag said small exporters still lacked knowledge about foreign trade requirements. “Export associations should have a help desk to guide about documentation requirements of the central bank and commercial banks.”