National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) hosted a Virtual Roundtable meeting to discuss the issues and challenges facing the Non-Bank Microfinance Institutions (NBMFIs) and their customers as a consequence of the economic slowdown due to COVID-19 pandemic. The Roundtable was attended by the CEOs of Pakistan’s largest NBMFIs including the National Rural Support Program, Kashf Foundation, Damen Support Program, SAFCO Support Program, Thardeep Foundation, Rural Community Development Program and Agahi.
The consultation was presided and initiated on the leadership of Mr. Arif Usmani, President NBP and included Mr. Zubyr Soomro (Chairman, NBP) and Ms. Sadaffe Abid (Director, NBP and Chair of Inclusive Development Committee NBP). Furthermore key sector players such as the CEOs of Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN) and the Pakistan Microfinance Investment Company (PMIC) were also invited to examine the state of the microfinance industry and explore opportunities to develop a sector wide approach.
The purpose of the Roundtable was to assess the nature, size and scale of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the microfinance clients income and well being. The microfinance sector reaches over 7 million borrowers across the country, 50% of whom are women. Mr. Zubyr Soomro, Chairman NBP in his opening remarks urged the microfinance players to take a long term approach, strengthen their lending standards, systems and manage resources efficiently.
The NBP leadership highlighted its inclusive development mandate and commitment to serve the nation through playing a leadership role in forging strategic alliances to help key institutions to manage their way through these times and increase their efforts to address poverty in the country. The dialogue will facilitate developing a holistic response for the microfinance sector in terms of the possible support required by the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This initiative was aimed at assessing the quantum and size of the NBMFI requirements as well as initiate a process of designing and implementing a twofold solution: firstly, to understand ways to ensure the NBMFI sector continues to be able to support its current client needs in the short and medium term during the present crisis, and secondly, to plan financing that would be required as the economy returns to a state of normalcy. .
The NBMFIs appreciated the action of the SECP (which regulates the NBMFI sector) for allowing them to defer loan payments from their borrowers to ease the financial burden on low income households.
All participants welcomed the initiative of the President (NBP) to organize this roundtable at this very critical juncture. The roundtable concluded with a commitment that the NBMFIs, PMN, PMIC and NBP would work together to help sustain and support low income households during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the economic well-being of millions of low income households intrinsically linked to the well-being of the NBMFIs a holistic approach must be undertaken.