ISLAMABAD-Federation Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Vice President Qaiser Khan Daudzai has appreciated the steps taken by the government to facilitate the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in current challenging situation of coronavirus pandemic.

He welcomed the statement of Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razzaq Dawood, to give supportive edge to SME’s sector, said a statement issued by FPCCI here on Friday.

He said more steps were required to initiate proper mechanism for giving relief to SMEs and to safeguard their business interest in terms of their necessary payments to concerned venders, utilities, rental and wages.

He urged for transparent transfer of public funds to SME’s sector, facing severe liquidity problem particularly in the current scenario of lockdown due to COVID-19.

Qaisar Khan stressed upon for announcing separate bailout package for SME sector including freezing their payment against markup on loans and taking serious steps in that regard.

Meanwhile, the business community has appealed the government to announce some relaxation for the markets and other businesses from the lockdown with strict preventive measures in line with the exception given to some industrial sectors amidst coronavirus pandemic.

Friends of Economic & Business Reforms (FEBR) President Kashif Anwar proposed that the local markets and small & medium industries can be allowed to open for a specific time under strict SOPs so that money could continue to circulate in the economy and millions of workers could retain their jobs, instead of depending on the government, says a press release.

In separate letters, written to Federal Industries & Production Minister Hammad Azhar and Punjab Industries & Commerce Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal, he requested the government to allow them to open markets, assuring that they would take all preventive measures, as COVID-19 crisis has caused severe economic destruction. Small-scale businesses and markets are going through a financial crunch and do not even have money to pay their employees, he added.

“This is the time that we all have to work on individual basis and fulfill our responsibilities for a collective struggle for the betterment of our people, saving them not only from the pandemic effects of COVID-19 but also from financial, psychological and social threats, which have not yet matured.”

Kashif Anwar, in the letter, proposed that in order to reduce the traffic of customers in the wholesale markets, shopkeepers should be asked to book orders of their products online, establishing a culture of online or virtual trade. It will also be beneficial for the State in terms of revenue generation and documentation, he added.

He asked the government to defer the payment of utility bills for the month of March, April and May 2020. Moreover, the workers whose contribution is paid under the head of Social Security, EOBI or Education Cess their monthly wages for these three months should be paid by the government and transferred to their respective bank accounts to ensure transparency. He added that school fees of the children of registered employees not be charged by the schools and paid by the government directly to schools.

He demanded that 50% discount may be given on all other children school fee which are not registered with any of the department.

“The retailers who submit their Income Tax Returns, the respective portion of monthly salary for these months should be transferred to the employee bank account and paid by the Government. SME sector which is the back bone of our economy and is a source of employment generation must be given same importance as of export sector and also given loan from banks at 6%.”

As the premises of tenants are closed by the order of the State, the rent should be paid by the government, while all existing loans in any shape taken from any bank by SMEs may be rescheduled at 6% mark up till June 2021, he added.

Regarding unregistered daily wagers, he said, their complete profile should be provided by the head of the concerned market and monthly assistance package by the State be transferred to them through easy paisa.

He said that SMEs and daily workers have severely been affected due to pandemic COVID-19. This is the first time in the history that the government will facilitate a taxpayer and a registered person to the grass root level, which is appreciable.