An Extra Ordinary Meeting of member states of Economic Cooperation Organisation Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ECO CCI) was virtually held on 5th May 2020 to discuss the impact of COVID – 19 on economic activities of ECO CCI member states and its repercussions and the government measures of each country to combat the pandemic and revive the business activities were also discussed focusing on enhancing exports and survival of small & medium enterprises SMEs.
The meeting was attended by heads of ECO CCI member states namely Mr. Azaraksh Hafizi – President ECO CCI, Mr. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu – President Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), Mr. Dovletgeldi Rejepov – Chairman Turkmenistan CCI, Syed Hossein Salimi – Board Member ICCIMA along with representatives from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The meeting was also graced by Dr. Hadi Soleimanpour – Secretary General of ECO.
Pakistani contingent was led by Mr. Amjad Rafi – Chairman National Committee of ECO CCI (Pakistan Chapter) and Dr. Iqbal Thaheem, Secretary General FPCCI. Mr. Amjad Rafi addressed the meeting by highlighting the measures taken by government of Pakistan to combat the coronavirus and the role of FPCCI to support the business community of Pakistan.
Mr. Amjad Rafi informed that Government of Pakistan has taken immediate measures in terms of lockdown, improving health and quarantine facilities etc. In order to reduce the social and economic losses, the Government of Pakistan has taken number of steps such as Economic Relief package of Rs. 1.2 trillion, Ehsaas/ Kifalat program (Cash amount), State Bank of Pakistan has announced various schemes of loans on low/reduced mark-up, amnesty scheme for construction industry, Fiscal relief in terms of deferment of payments or extension in filing tax return, waif off different port related charges, waif off different provincial levies etc.
He also emphasized on collective effort of ECO CCI member states to curb the virus and promote the business activities. ECO CCI member establish strong E-commerce for trade and prepare a plan to identify available resources in member states and also find their need in the respective members and share medical expertise and available medical equipment, medicines, kits and clothing etc. He said that this is a serious time for the whole world and the ECO CCI family should fight this together.
He appreciated that the Government of Pakistan is working tirelessly to support the business community while he also thanked the ECO CCI secretariat to schedule this meeting during this turmoil.
Mr. Rifat Hisarciklioglu President ToBB in his welcome remarks said that it is new world order the world connected virtually. The COVID-19 is a global with local solution that is isolation and social distancing. World economy is badly affected and slowdown. Oil prices also have its repercussion on economic growth. He further said that our region ECO is also less integrated.
He informed that first case of coronavirus was reported in March 2020 since then government took precautionary measures and lockdown. Government also introduced relief measures for business sector and has deferred payment of taxes for three months.
Mr. Azarakhsh Hafizi, President ECOCCI while participating stated that due to this virus economy of our region is badly damaged. The region will face severe crises in terms of economy and finance after the crises will over. All member states cooperate with each to support economic progress and particularly ensure food supply chain. Collective effort should be made to combat this crisis. He said that Afghanistan is an underdeveloped country and coronavirus impact will badly affect economy adversely.
Secretary General ECO Mr. Hadi Soleimanpour emphasized upon strengthen of the region to face future challenges. He said that various programs are on the agenda of the ECO such as ease in Visa issuance, stickers for goods carrier’s drivers, movement of goods in the region, ECOTA etc. He also urged the ECO Trade and Development Bank to support SMEs of the region under this COVID-19. He also informed that ECO secretariat is also liaisoning with international donor organizations to support ECO member states.
Representative of the ECO CCI members’ states informed about the conditions in their respective countries and measures taken by their governments in term of fiscal, tax, employment loss etc.
It was also discussed that the Specialised Committee meetings of ECO CCI may be held virtually in the future.