KARACHI: The Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME) has invited the attention of Federal Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir to the absence of a national business portal linking the Pakistani exporters to international buyers through internet e-commerce and urged him to direct its setting up on top priority.

President UNISAME and chairman Capacity Building Group NFIS Zulfikar Thaver said that one fails to understand that despite of several request to the different ministries of Planning and Reforms, Finance, Industries and Commerce about the urgent requirement, high importance and high impact a B2B portal could make for the exports of the SME sector, no steps have been taken.

He said that the SMEs cannot afford to subscribe for the foreign B2B portals who are demanding high fees for the facility of posting the products and services of the SMEs. Thaver also said that it is the duty of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) who is collecting Export Development Surcharge (EDS) to facilitate the SMEs and provide them the facility of connectivity and e-presence.

It is very unfortunate that UNISAME has to highlight the importance of the portal and keep reminding the different ministries time and again, he said. This lack of interest and lethargy on the part of the different ministries is damaging the sector. It is pertinent to note that the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) spent a huge amount of money and made the system but now does not have the funds to implement it, he further said.

Likewise the TDAP prepared the draft of the project and even formed the steering committee but abandoned it. The TDAP can start right away by joining hands with SMEDA who has it and can provide it to TDAP on turnkey basis if TDAP is prepared to finance its functioning. Needless to state that the ministry of information and technology has not thought about it and the ministry of planning and reforms has acknowledged that this is a high impact facility which would facilitate the sector but is unable to convince the finance ministry which needs to provide funds for its implementation.

The B2B portal could increase exports of SMEs in textiles, rice and commodities, light engineering, general merchandise and food items substantially. Thaver has appealed to the different ministries to take up the matter in the cabinet as it relates to all of them and it is a matter of concern in view of the declining exports.