LAHORE - The government has in principle agreed to continue providing Research & Development (R&D) support to the apparel sector up to June 30, 2008. The decision to this effect would be finalised by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC). Syed Naveed Qamar Federal Minister for Finance, Privatisation & Investment announced the decision during a meeting with a representative delegation of Pakistan Apparel Forum having representation of Pakistan Hosiery Manufactures Association (PHMA), Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers & Exporters Association (PRGMEA), PN & SA and PCFAA which met the Minister Tuesday at Islamabad. One of the PRGMEA representatives, Ijaz Khokar former chairman talking to The Nation hailed that Finance Minister Syed Naveed Qamar who assured the delegation that the government would make all out efforts to resolve the market access issue being faced by the industry. Khokar said that the minister was informed that the R&D was a necessity for the garment sector and any reduction in 6 per cent R&D subsidy would wipe off Pakistan exporters out the international market, who are fighting for their survival all alone. He said that the R&D should be increased up to 10 percent, however, government contrarily was considering of providing the facility in slabs, where only one percent of the exporters would get the benefit. He said 90 percent exporters falls in the category of SMEs who were exporting up to $ 3 millions. He said that 4pc exporters could touch the $3 t $5 million category, 3 percent $5 to $10m, 2 percent $10 to $ 25m and only 1 percent over $25m could converge the proposed slab of getting all the facility of R&D. He said that the categorising only would harm the sector, which consist of 90 percent of the SMEs. Khokar said that the minister was told that the buyers were getting the benefit of the facility and the accusation that no Research & Development activity was being carried out in-spite of 6 percent R&D facility was simply baseless. 'I can request for a visit to any factory in the Industrial area in receipt of R&D subsidy and will find that more than 70-80 percent of 6 percent R&D subsidy is being spent on expanding working area, added high-tech machines, computerized system and 20 percent on training to produce skilled labour for the factory; he added. Meanwhile the Finance Minister directed the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) to examine the Withholding Tax issue being faced by garment industry exporters and submit a report to take prompt decision to facilitate the industry. He asked the industry to cooperate with the government to keep the economy healthy, which would be equally beneficial for the business groups. The business groups were aware of the economic conditions of tan Apparel Forum Mr. M. Naqi Bari apprised the Minister regarding the problems being faced by the industry and assured fullest support to the govt in improving the economy.