KARACHI - The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry’s (FPCCI) Standing Committee on SMEs chairman Iqbal Sony has said the long delay in proper working of the Sialkot Tannery Zone (STZ) has halted billions of rupees’ new investment and a vast opportunity of jobs creation, beside hitting the growth of leather exports from Pakistan, as the project is pending for a long time.

Iqbal Sony, in a statement issued here, appealed the government, especially the Punjab Small Industries Corporation (PSIC), to conduct a thorough forensic audit of the STZ, which has not been completed for the last 13 years despite spending billions of rupees funds on it.

He said that with a view to help grow the businesses in post-corona economic strategy, the government will have to take solid measures to strengthen the industry in true spirit, especially the SMEs, saving the livelihood of millions of workers associated with the small industries.

The small and medium enterprises are backbone of the economy and their role was crucial for economic development.

In perspective of the COVID-19 the cash-strapped Small and Medium Industry needs special attention of the government, as it represents more than 90 percent of around 3.2 million business enterprises in Pakistan, contributing 40 percent to the GDP, employing more than 80 percent of non-agricultural workforce, and generating 25 percent of export earnings.

Iqbal Sony said that the historic project of the STZ in view of revolutionizing the export industry of Pakistan was realized in 2004 and purchase of land was started in 2009. He said that the practical work began in 2013 but despite the lapse of almost 13 years the project is not finalized yet.

He said that the project could increase the worldwide demand for Pakistani leather products and Pakistan’s leather garments if it starts working properly. The FPCCI’s body chairman said that the project is being delayed intentionally, due to mismanagement and unprofessional conduct of present administration of the STZ.