ISLAMABAD - Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh, chairman of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue, has said that social entrepreneurship has immense potential to contribute to and give a boost to overall economy of Pakistan.

Speaking at a seminar titled “Recommendations for Social Enterprise Sector” under the aegis of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here, he said the government had initiated deliberations to bring this important sector in the mainstream.

An in-depth research on the prevalent social enterprise policy landscape in Pakistan on the occasion was shared with the participants. The research conducted by SDPI in collaboration with various knowledge partners suggested that urgent policy interventions were required to provide an enabling environment and a level playing field to social entrepreneurs in the country. The research further explained that fiscal policy measures were required to bring down the cost of doing social business for the welfare of the poorest of the poor.

Sheikh told the audience that the federal government was considering social enterprises ahead of the forthcoming national budget.

He said that deliberations on this sector had already been put on the agenda of the Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue. He said the committee was working on various ideas to simplify SECP laws and facilitate this sector.

Earlier, Dr Vaqar Ahmad, deputy executive director of SDPI, suggested that the government support to social enterprises could be started by giving a legal definition to social enterprise entities.

The Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the Planning Commission, he said, could work with provincial planning departments and support social enterprises (SEs) through provincial development plans.

He said the forthcoming budget could provide support to startups towards capacity-building and organisational development needs of such entities. Likewise, the Federal Board of Revenue was needed to consult SEs and hence devise a tax regime that values social impact.

The Ministry of Finance and the State Bank of Pakistan should also come forward to evaluate the factors why formal finance was not reaching the SEs and put in place corrective measures to boost lending to SEs. In addition, federal and provincial governments could take measures to encourage SEs through public procurement of goods and services, he concluded.

Zeenia Faraz, head of programmes society at the British Council, was of view that since a large number of youth was taking interest in the social entrepreneurship, the measure must be taken to encourage their venture. Faraz Khan, CEO of Social Entrepreneurship & Equity Development (SEED), said that in near future social enterprise was going to contribute significantly to the economy of the country. However, the sector needed more structured policy and regulation and a policy platform, where challenges and hurdles could be discussed to help improve the sector.

Omar J Ghani, South Asia regional director at ENCLUDE, said that social entrepreneurship was a self-sustainable sector, but unfortunately, the sector lacked legal structure and regulatory framework. He said the regulators needed to come forward and help support the sector by introducing a supportive legal framework and providing a level playing field for the growth of the sector.