KARACHI – The speakers at 6th Pakistan SME Conference 2012 presented broad-based solutions for meeting the current challenges and discussed the contributions and potential of SMEs for nation-building. The need for specialized SME bankers was also stressed upon, says a press release.The forum was supported by the State Bank of Pakistan, SME Business Support Fund (BSF), Union of Small & Medium Enterprises (UNISAME), IFC-World Bank along with the Small & Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA). A special panel discussion highlighted the “Public Sector Development Program and Sub Sector Opportunities” available for strengthening SMEs in Pakistan. A number of commercial banks also supported the annual conference, now a benchmark for the SME sector.More than 200 delegates representing Private Enterprises, Government Ministries, State Bank, Commercial Banks, Trade Associations, FPCCI, CPLC, academia and the media attended the day-long proceedings, which comprised of two insightful sessions and an interactive panel discussion. The theme of the conference was ‘Engaging SMEs to stabilize the Economy” and it focused on two critical developmental areas, namely; “Ailments restricting SME Growth Acceleration” and “Cost Controls, Impediments, Market Forces & Challenges. The conference featured eminent chairpersons including; Mr. Kazi Abdul Muktadir, Deputy Governor, State Bank of Pakistan, who highlighted that certain banks have been entrusted with the responsibility of supporting SME’s. Whereas 64% of the special financing allocations made for SME’s at commercial banks, were being utilized.Director of SMEDA - Mr. Sultan Tiwana said that SME’s present a big opportunity for the commercial banks as in most developing countries, the ratio of non-performing loans has been as low as 2 to 7 percent. Even in Pakistan, targeted financing facilities launched for CNG rickshaw owners and Gems and Jewelry makers gave excellent results with almost Zero percent default ratios.During the presentation sessions, Mr. Kalim ur Rahman, CEO, JS Bank Ltd. said that in Pakistan, only 7% of the SME’s have availed bank financing facilities. Thus, these services are highly under-utilized in this critical sector. He also emphasized the need for a specialized SME Bank as well as trained SME bankers catering to the exclusive needs of the sector.Javed Iqbal, Project Manager, Business Edge, IFC-World Bank Group elaborated on the Financial-Inclusion Program and Management Training Initiatives being run by IFC all over the country. Chairperson of the first session, former federal minister Barrister Shahida Jamil said, the real ailment of SME’s in Pakistan is the deteriorating culture of Taxation, which encourages SMEs to avoid documentation of their business performance. This issue needs to be addressed with a reformed ethical approach towards entrepreneurship. Syed Samar Hasnain, Director SME at SBP presented the Sustainable Initiatives and enabling regulatory environment created by the SBP for SMEs Promotion and gave a global perspective with various examples of SME support, performance and growth in developing countries. SBP absorbs 40% of the default risks faced by commercial banks in case of new SME ventures.Mian Abrar Ahmed, President, KCCI analyzed the difficulties of businessmen in Karachi and other major cities, among which, Law and Order situation is the most critical. He also seconded and suggested the establishment of an exclusive bank for SMEs in which all commercial banks should be equal shareholders. Mr. Ahmed Chinoy, Chairman, Citizens' Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) gave a briefing on a deterrent Program to support the Business Community in Karachi, saying that the Law and Order crisis in Karachi can only be met by collaborative efforts by the political forces, bureaucratic establishment, law-enforcement agencies and the common citizens. He highlighted that extortion and kidnappings have risen to be the biggest challenges for the social and commercial communities in Karachi. CPLC’s call center is attending and addressing over 6000 complaints every day. It also maintains a vast data base of Car-theft cases, FIRs and Jailed prisoners.Mr. Saquib Mohyuddin, CEO, Business Support Fund delivered the Keynote address, urging empowerment, structural reforms, good-governance and HR training for SMEs, which can help reinvigorate the national economy rapidly. He suggested that it should be mandatory for MNC’s in Pakistan to outsource a portion of their work to the local SMEs. Mr. Menin Rodrigues, CEO of SHAMROCK Communications appreciated the healthy response and participation in this annual conference, from all spheres of the SME sector, along with its leadership and support institutions. Other prominent speakers who participated in the Panel Discussion towards the end of the 6th SME Conference included Advisor to KCCI, Ateeq ur Rehman; Representative of Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport, Nasir Jamil; Director of Pakistan Institute of Management, Abid Hussain; President of UNISAME, Zulfiqar Thaver; Chairman, Leasing Association of Pakistan, Mr. Teizoon Kisat; and the Country Representative, International Multi Model Transport, Capt. Raffat Zaheer. These forum stressed on the need for deploying a new and evolved breed of bankers who have a totally developmental mindset towards SME’s, rather than following a commercial thought process of traditional bankers.