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Need stressed for promoting micro financing – Economic stability cannot be achieved without women’s role

RAWALPINDI: Without involving women entrepreneurs in the economic activities through the provision of micro credit financing, the country cannot achieve the target of economic stability and self-reliance, said Dr. Ishrat Hussain, Governor, State Bank of Pakistan, here on March 5, 2004.

“It is a point of concern that the number of micro-credit finance borrowers in Pakistan is just 200,000, while 50 to 70 million entrepreneurs the world over have borrowed micro-credit and have enhanced the living standards of their families”, Dr. Ishrat said while delivering the Bank Alfalah Lecture 2004 on ‘Micro-Credit for Women Entrepreneurs,’ arranged by Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU). Chief Executive Bank Alfalah, Saleem Akhtar and Prof. Dr. Najma Najam Vice-chancellor FJWU also addressed the gathering of students, bankers and journalists.

As many as 50 to 70 million of the world’s poorest people have taken part in the past seven years in micro-finance projects aimed at giving them a stepping stone out of poverty. Figures are expected to confirm a further 20 million will have access to micro-credit by the end of 2004, Dr. Ishrat said.

Terming the micro, credit financing immediate basis for the socio-economic change of the nation, Dr. Ishrat said that women entrepreneurs have a big role in it. “Without involving women, who are half of the country’s total population, the desired goals of development and prosperity could not be attained.”

Women are not only to sit idle in homes and raise children. They have their role in the society, he said, and added that women are better entrepreneurs than men and are actively taking part in economic activities, if involved.

“Micro-credit financing is not a banking activity but a movement to change the living standard of the poor people of the country. Some individuals in Pakistan have formulated this policy in order to put the country on the path of micro-credit financing,” he said and added that it is commitment of the present government to encourage the micro credit financing particularly in rural areas.

This, he said, would have manifold benefits for government as well as common people. It will help in poverty alleviation, enhance the living standard of masses, eradicate illiteracy and unemployment from the country.

Dr. Ishrat reiterated that apart from launching apart-specialized micro-credit bank the SBP and the government would facilitate all efforts in setting up such institutions. “We need very strong micro-credit banking system in the country to achieve the high objective of economic development and poverty alleviation”, he said.

Micro finance institutions like Khushhali Bank of Pakistan and First Micro-Credit Bank of Pakistan stand still better chances of success, as it fits perfectly well with the renewed order of priority of World Bank and IMF for their lending programs.

Though it took these banks some 50 years, during which hundreds of thousands of men, women and children died in distress and many more suffered most horrific suffering in abject poverty, before they acknowledged their responsibility towards the lot of the unfortunate people the world over. They are still waiting to taste the fruits of humanity’s strides in development.

Dr. Ishrat said that Dr. Muhammad Yunas of Grameen from Chittagong was the pioneer of the micro-credit, financing. Actually he got bored by education and decided to do something for the poor. It took Yunas seven to eight years to convince the Bangladesh government the need for his pioneer venture in 1983.

He said “We hardly have any impediments of the sort faced by Dr. Yunas in setting up his Grameen in Bangladesh. It seems we have all the requisites-very large chunks of dispossessed population including rural poor with women filling in the bracket of the poorest of the poor. The government is not only convinced but is apparently keen on setting up of such an institution the international creditors seems to be all willing and waiting to extend the requisite finances, if and when such a project materializes.

Hailing the role of Fatima Jinnah Women University, Dr. Ishrat said that the university has played a vital role in bringing women of the country forward to play their effective role. “You are not ordinary students as you have to play vital role in changing the complete scenario of the country,”

He asked the students and expressed hope that they would come out for productivity and progress.

Saleem Akhtar, Chief Executive of Bank Alfalah, said that the topic of the day was relevant, given Pakistan’s commitment to its economic and social uplift. According to a disturbing ILO statistics, 70 percent of global population living at less than one dollar a day are women.

Women, he said, need to be recognized as an integral part of the workforce and should be afforded the means so that they may evolve as such. He stressed the need for a self-sustaining micro-credit program that is freely accessible to all aspiring women entrepreneurs.

Lauding the role of FJWU and its vice-chancellor, he said that this varsity has brought closer together those desirous of a sound education and the means that presently exist for its provision.

Dr. Najma Najam expressed her resolve to play effective role for empowerment of women and said that the students who leave this alma mater are fully charged to play an effective role of empowerment of women, poverty alleviation and eradication of illiteracy from the society.

Source: Business Recorder