SMEDA functioning without CEO for past six months

Ministry says board has conducted interviews, will send nominations to PM

Usman Hanif November 01, 2019

KARACHI: The current government has time and again reiterated the importance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), often terming them the backbone of the economy. Yet the position of CEO at the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (Smeda) has been lying vacant for the past six months.

“We have been badly affected by the slow pace of work by the Ministry of Industries and Production, and we urge PM aide Abdul Razak Dawood to expedite SME promotion and development,” remarked Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (Unisame) President Zulfikar Thaver.

A few months ago, the authorities sought applications and finalised four candidates - Sindh Board of Investment former chairperson Naheed Memon, Smeda Punjab provincial chief Hassanien Javed, Smeda Frontier chief Javed Khattak and former Smeda CEO Muhammad Alamgir Chaudhry.

Earlier, Sher Ayub Khan had served as CEO of the authority for a period of three years. He took charge on August 15, 2017 and resigned from his position at the end of March 2019.

“For the past six months, a senior general manager has been managing the affairs as acting CEO,” confirmed a Smeda official.

Pakistan has 3.2 million SMEs which, according to Thaver, is a very old number quoted for decades and now a fresh appraisal is needed as many agro-based SMEs have also entered the sector.

Smeda, which earlier had more than 400 staff members, now only has about 109 employees. “Smeda only has skeleton staff now,” said Thaver. “We need to increase both, the size and scope of Smeda.”

The government is also working on announcing the SME Policy 2019, which is expected to address many challenges faced by the sector.

“The SME sector is the engine of growth, it needs financing at affordable mark-up, urgently needs a credit guarantee insurance scheme at low premium, uninterrupted energy supply without load-shedding,” he said. “The sector needs modern logistics facilities including collateral management.”

Thaver stressed that in this age of digitalisation there was a technological gap and it was high time the policymakers realised the fact and set up a technological institute for the sector.

“It is very unfortunate that the policymakers do not know the size of the sector,” he said.

“Smeda board of directors conducted interviews of shortlisted candidates in its 19th meeting held on October 14, 2019. The board will shortly recommend nominations in order of priority for the post of CEO,” said an official of the Ministry of Industries. “A comprehensive case will be forwarded to the prime minister and the cabinet for the appointment of the CEO,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2019.

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