SBP Governor urges banks to strengthen presence in Balochistan

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KARACHI: The Governor of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Ashraf Mahmood Wathra has advised banks to strengthen their presence in Balochistan and increase financing, especially in the concessional finance schemes.

The SBP Governor issued this directive during his meetings with CEOs of commercial banks and representatives of Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCI) in Quetta on Monday, according to a SBP statement issued here.

The SBP Governor in continuation of his earlier engagements with banking industry and different chambers of commerce and industry, had invited the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of all leading banks for the meeting in the provincial capital.

The SBP statement stated that these engagements are aimed at understanding, at first hand, issues faced by industries of specific area; assessing the efficiency of intermediary function performed by banks, and addressing the limitations encountered by banks in effectively performing their intermediary function.

The SBP Governor advised all banks to prepare at least three years business plan to strengthen their presence in Balochistan.

He said that banks should take concrete steps to increase number of branchless banking agents, branchless banking accounts and ATMs in the province.

The SBP Governor also urged banks to open branches in underserved districts of the province, increase financing particularly in the concessional finance schemes of SBP/GoP, and maintain continued focus on AML/CFT risks.

These steps have been identified to increase the footprint of banking industry in Balochistan for achieving the SBP’s strategic goal (2020) of enhancing the Financial Inclusion in country.

The statement said the SBP is cognisant of the fact that private sector lending is picking up on account of improved security situation and better availability of energy. However, it added, a lot needs to be done, particularly in areas which have remained marginalised to ensure that economic growth is inclusive and its benefits are shared by all stakeholders.

The SBP Governor sensitised the CEOs of the banks on continued improvement in security situation in Balochistan, realisation of projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), development of Gwader Port and untapped natural resources, which together offer tremendous opportunities for growth and employment.

Later in the day, the SBP Governor also met with the President, Vice Presidents, other office bearers and members of the Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCI).

During the meeting, the Governor informed business community about SBP’s efforts in promoting microfinance, agri-credit and SME financing in Balochistan.

He informed that in the light of Agriculture Credit Advisory Committee’s recommendation, specific targets are being allocated to the banks for underserved/underdeveloped areas.

“Like-wise, given the importance of SMEs in the country and particularly in Balochistan, the SBP would set province-wise SME financing targets from the current year,” he added.

He hoped that this would spur growth in the province. The Governor also underscored the importance of National Financial Inclusion Strategy for deepening of financial inclusion as SBP’s key strategic vision.

“Improved law and order condition coupled with CPEC in place, development of Gwadar Port and greater trade with neighbouring countries will bring real prosperity to Balochistan and create new business opportunities and job creation,” Wathra mentioned.

He expected that the Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industry would handhold local businesses making them bankable so that they as exporters make best use of SBP’s export finance schemes.

While urging the Quetta Chamber to play its due role in creating awareness of Islamic banking, the Governor assured the Chamber’s representatives of SBP’s support in various activities for dissemination of various incentive schemes in particular and other schemes of central bank in general.

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