ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Planning Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal yesterday emphasised the need for promoting non-traditional Small and Medium Entrepreneur (SMEs), which have potential to enhance the country's exports to $50 billion annually.

Ahsan, addressing Round Table Conference (RTC) on prioritising growth of Small and Medium Enterprises to achieve Sustainable Development, said China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) can provide great opportunity for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to develop and grow as the role of SMEs is critical in the processes of inclusive growth. The conference was attended by federal and provincial secretaries, representatives from development partners, financial institutions and academia.

Ahsan said Pakistan Vision 2025 envisages inclusive growth as the way forward for sustainable economic development. He suggested to make HEC partners in SMEs sector to train university students in entrepreneurship and added that academia should be linked with the markets for necessary research.

He said that Pakistan is now ready for economic take off and country’s growth rate is on the rising trajectory. “We are on our way to fix our energy crisis and security situation has also improved. Economic development will not sustain itself if it is not inclusive so it has to be inclusive both socially and regionally.”

Ahsan emphasised to align SME sector with the export goals to build foreign reserves. He also stressed on the need for harmony in the system and good economic policies and the need for political stability to create an environment of collaboration.

"Exports are desperately needed to be promoted because exports are the principle source of strengthening country's foreign exchange reserves which are vital for sustainable economic growth of the country," the minister said.

He said SMEs could be made the main driver of economic growth by properly focusing on this sector. He said country consisted of majority young people and currently the annual requirement was about 1.5 million to 2 million new jobs. He said that SMEs sector can play important role in creating new jobs as it has the potential to boost exports besides creating new jobs and accelerating the economic growth of the country. He said political stability was necessary for sustainable economic growth.

Talking to newsmen, about the political situation, after the conference, Ahsan said that PTI Chief Imran Khan was proving good for Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) as due to his irrational steps, his party was losing popularity across the country.

He said the PTI chief talks about corruption but his own party's MNAs and MPAs had leveled allegation of corruption against the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government. To a question, the minister said that Pakistan People's Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was new in Pakistan's politics and he needed time to get mature in the politics.