On Wednesday 27th of November, Ms. Saba Shahid, Research Fellow CPPG was invited by the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry to attend an event for the campaign “Women Lift Women.” The event was organised by Aasia Saail Khan, Convenor Standing Committee on Women Business Development. The seminar included short presentations on the following:
Government schemes and lending opportunities for women, the benefits of becoming a tax filer, and the use of social media for marketing.
Mr. Ali Hussam Asghar, Senior Vice President LCCI explained that they had declared an export emergency at the Chamber given Pakistan’s low performance on export indicators. However the government could focus on the following three areas: IT exports, ready made garment industry and halal foods. With the latter the global industry is greater than 500 bn $ while Pakistan forms less than 5 mn $ of that. We need to improve quality standards and issues with certification.
Ms. Ayesha Imran Butt, Commissioner Inland Revenue RTO II Lahore spoke about the benefits and ease of becoming a tax filer. She explained the “Tax Assan” application of the Income Tax department which helps users verify that the sales tax they are paying are reaching the government or not. She said their online system was very user-friendly and got rid of the need for a consultant or accountant for the process of becoming a filer. Additionally the FBR’s digitized system is state of the art, allowing the Bureau access to information on individual’s major assets such as property, vehicles etc. through the NIC. This ensured people were calculating their taxes and tax returns effectively.
Ms. Saira from the State Bank of Pakistan commented that the SBP’s current focus was on increasing Pakistani exports. For this they are currently targeting the SME sector which contributes to 30% of our GDP, 25% of exports and 78% of industrial employment. In terms of demand-side issues, the SBP hopes to correct for low financial literacy, low levels of tax filing and the use of informal resources for borrowing. On the supply side, the SBP wants to expand finances to large businesses but also to SMEs and individual entrepreneurs. The Bank wants to promote financial inclusion, particularly for people working in the Agriculture sector, microfinance and housing. The Bank is also working towards helping female entrepreneurs in setting up their startups and in expandig their existing businesses. The SBP also provides a credit guarantee scheme for small and rural enterprises and for youth entrepreneurs.
Ms. Yasmeen Rehman, a Former Member of National Assembly, spoke about the need to help women entrepreneurs in rural areas by minimizing the paper work required to access loans. Access to information was also an important component of this. She added that while conventional businesses for women were important forms of employment for them, such as beauty parlors, clothing boutiques or home cooked meals, they were expanding into other markets such as IT and this needs to be encouraged.
The event provided an opportunity to discuss the importance of the wide rage and sizes of businesses in Paksitan’s economy and the significant role female entrepreneurs play in this. The LCCI aims to facilitate and boost that process.