The government on Thursday launched Secured Transactions Registry (STR) to facilitate micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector to access financial services.
It is also negotiating with lending institutions to put in place mechanisms to support MSMEs in retaining workers through payment of their salaries.
The STR was formally inaugurated by Finance Adviser Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. Established under the Financial Institutions (Secured Transactions) Act, 2016 for registration of security interests and charges created by entities other than companies on their movable assets, the STR was operationalised by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).
The STR is an electronic register that can be accessed through a dedicated website round the clock that allows financial institutions to file security interests. Registration process is fully automated and the registry is searchable by the general public free of charge.
Speaking at the occasion, Shaikh said that MSMEs played a vital role in the economic development of the country due to their significant contribution in terms of output, exports and employment.
Particularly, SMEs constitute approximately 90pc of businesses in Pakistan, employ 80pc of the non-agricultural labour force and contribute 40pc to the annual GDP. Despite playing such a significant role in economic growth, their access to formal finance was limited to only 6pc of the total lending by banking, Shaikh noted.
He hoped the STR initiative would prove to be a game changer by improving the access to finance for the MSMEs, agri borrowers and rural enterprises. The commencement of the registry will broaden the scope of assets that these underserved segments can offer as a security for availing the finance.
On the other hand, this reform will also help banks to expand their lending portfolios. Its operationalisation will contribute towards boosting Pakistan’s score on ‘getting credit indicators’, and in particular raise its ranking on the World Bank’s Doing Business’ index, besides improving financial inclusion.
The launching ceremony was attended by SBP Governor Reza Baqir, SECP Aamir Khan, BoI Chairman Atif R. Bokhari, Karandaaz Chairperson Shamshad Akhtar, Karandaaz CEO Ali Sarfraz, DFID Pakistan Department Head Annable Gerry and World Bank Country Director Illango Patchamuthu.
Shaikh also presided over a meeting to deliberate on a financial assistance package for the SMEs in which the Industries minister and World Bank country director also participated.
For the assistance package, stakeholders are exploring the possibilities of supporting the SMEs, formal or informal, which are employing 5-30 people but have suffered losses due to the recent lockdown. The means to support the firms to continue their production and enable them to pay their fixed costs and help their workers were discussed.
The adviser said the focus of the scheme should be that workers attached with these small businesses should not be laid off because of the unsustainability of the business. Provision of basic IT-related skills to smaller enterprises and staffers to continue their entrepreneurship in difficult times was also discussed.
It was decided that the cooperation of Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority and Punjab IT Board will be sought to make the package implementable.