Mr. Almas Haider, Senior Vice-President of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Syed Imtiaz Bukhari of J.S. Bank
Mr. Saleem Bhatti of Khushali Bank
Mr. Khurram Hussain of Bank Alfala
Ms. Tania Aizaz of First Microfinance Bank
Members of the Media and Distinguished Guests
Assalaam-u-Alaikum and thank you for the warm welcome.
One of our top assistance priorities is helping Pakistan achieve sustained economic growth and development. And in order to do that, the United States government is always looking for new and innovative ways to help unleash the limitless potential of Pakistan’s vibrant private sector economy. Today we come together to celebrate the Punjab launch of an important program designed to do just that. The U.S. – Pakistan Partnership for Access to Credit was designed by the United States Agency for International Development to ease access to credit by small and medium sized enterprises across Pakistan. As economic leaders, you understand the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises—SMEs—to the economy.
There are approximately 3.2 million enterprises in Pakistan, 93 percent of which are SMEs. The output of the SMEs makes up 30 percent of your country’s Gross Domestic Product and 25 percent of its total export earnings. SMEs employ nearly 70 percent of Pakistan’s workforce in manufacturing, services, and trade and they are the traditional drivers of any growing economy in the world.
Access to finance, financial services, technical assistance and an enabling business environment will only increase SMEs’ contribution to Pakistan’s economy. However, at present, SMEs still struggle to access credit from private financial networks, which limits their growth and their competitiveness.
Through the U.S.- Pakistan Partnership for Access to Credit, USAID has partnered with Bank Alfalah, JS Bank, Khushhali Bank and First Microfinance Bank to provide up to 6,000 businesses with access to $60 million in loans over the next seven years. I commend all four banks for their commitment to this partnership with USAID and their resolve to take the risks necessary to promote strong, SME-led business growth in Pakistan.
The Partnership for Access to Credit is just one of five USAID-supported initiatives that are addressing constraints on growth and competitiveness for SMEs. These projects are increasing regional trade opportunities and providing technical assistance to support policy reform in support of SMEs.
Backing the Government of Punjab’s efforts to strengthen the economy is one of our top priorities. We work hand in hand with government officials and private sector partners to reduce the challenges faced by businesses. United States government-funded projects are improving policies and promoting regional trade; they are providing better access to credit; increasing the availability of skilled labor; and, strengthening the operations of key growth enterprises—all with the end goal of alleviating poverty in this country.
During my time here in Lahore, I have seen how Chief Minister Sharif and his government are working hard to encourage private-sector driven economic growth. The government of Punjab’s efforts have created a powerful enabling environment, one conducive to economic growth—that is fertile soil in which initiatives such as this one can flourish. In a joint statement issued on Friday during Prime Minister Sharif’s visit to Washington, President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif affirmed that economic growth in Pakistan provides the surest foundation for the prosperity of its people and the security of the region. President Obama further said that the United States will help Pakistan create conditions for accelerated trade and investment-driven growth. By partnering with your government, we are contributing to Pakistan and the United States’ shared goal of economic growth and empowerment.
Thank you and Khuda Hafez