ISLAMABAD - Pakistani and the US experts on Wednesday said that expanded financial inclusion and simplified regulation could add Rs1.5 trillion to the economy.

The experts said that Pakistan’s GDP would jump 2 percent if all Pakistanis entered into formal banking system, and another 2 percent with simplified trade regulations. The experts from private and non-profit sectors and Pakistani government participated in a US government-sponsored programme to broaden financial inclusion for small and medium enterprises.

There are currently around 100 million Pakistanis who do not participate in the formal banking sector, depriving them of the much needed capital to grow their businesses, the experts said.

Facilitated by the US Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Programme, the day-long discussion focused on ways new technologies could include businesses and households currently without access to the banking system.

In his keynote address, Ghulam Abbasi of the State Bank of Pakistan outlined the various ways the national bank could aid SMEs.

The workshop also featured 3 lively panel discussions on expanding cross-border trade, taxation and e-commerce privacy. Attendees of the workshop included MBA students from Quaid-e-Azam University, many of them future women entrepreneurs.

This programme continues the US Mission Pakistan’s assistance in broadening financial inclusion to Pakistani SMEs. The US Consulate in Karachi will hold a roundtable discussion on these issues in the port city on October 18, said a US Embassy statement.

Pakistan is seeking a loan from the International Monetary Fund amid economic crises. An IMF team is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on November 7 to negotiate the programme, likely to cover a period of three years.

The Institute of International Finance in its latest report said that a potential IMF programme for Pakistan could be valued at $15 billion. The IIF expects an agreement on a 3-year IMF programme of $15 billion by end of this year. Finance Minister Asad Umar; however, says the IMF would be asked for a $12 billion package while another $5 billion would be sought from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Meanwhile, researchers, government agencies, and private businesses from Pakistan and the United States announced on Wednesday their cooperation to eliminate a toxic fungus that causes liver cancer and stunting in children.

The joint effort also aims to improve nutrition and safeguard the health of Pakistan’s citizens by securing a disease-free food supply.

Officials from the US Department of Agriculture are working with the Pakistani company Rafhan Maize Products to target the fungus aflatoxin, which occurs naturally in crops, said a US Embassy statement.

The project will use a cutting-edge USDA technology that works to eliminate aflatoxin in the fields, where it effects up to 25% of all crops grown. This joint effort will make Pakistan a leader in global efforts to grow safer vegetables, such as maze, as well as nuts, such as pistachios, and will even help secure the health of livestock by protecting the plants grown as feed for the animals.

At the event to announce the project, Deputy Chief of Mission John Hoover from the US Mission Pakistan congratulated the partners working on this effort and highlighted the long history of U.S.-Pakistani cooperation in the field of agriculture.

Commenting on the impact that fighting aflatoxin will have, Hoover commented: “It will affect the health and job prospects of thousands of Pakistanis and improve the economic viability of Pakistani commodities for export.”

Key partners working with the USDA to safeguard Pakistani crops include International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Agricultural Research Centre, and the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International.