The region’s largest development financial institution is putting $1.2 million (US$600, 000) at the disposal of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to help them respond to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) in partnership with the European Union (EU) are collaborating to assist these businesses retain their employees and retool their operations.
The CDB, which last year provided much needed grant funding to support the MSME sector, is this year providing further financial support through the Technical Assistance Programme (TAP) to shore up these enterprises heavily impacted by the coronavirus.
Addressing the launch earlier this week Director of the Projects Department at CDB, Daniel Best, reinforced the importance of the MSME sector in the region.
According to the senior CDB official, MSMEs on average contribute about 50 per cent of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) and create about 45 per cent of the jobs.
“This is a perfect opportunity for stakeholders to recommit our willingness to work towards a strategic and effective way forward,” as the region battles the economic effects and social fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he told the virtual session.
“Trade, investment and employment have all been negatively affected and are expected to have a severe, adverse impact on the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Best explained that many of the initiatives taken to bring the pandemic under control led to business closures, especially in the hospitality sector. He said Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) statistics showed arrivals to the Caribbean fell by 65 per cent when compared to 2019.
“The sudden shutdown in tourism has stunted economic growth in the Caribbean, given the heavy reliance of several [borrowing member countries] on economic activity in this sector”.
The Director of the CDB’s Projects Department who praised his team for their efforts to assist the sector, said the initiative responded to an “urgent need for technical assistance and capacity building programmes to help businesses survive, remain competitive and regain market share in export and domestic markets”.
MSMEs will be able to apply for grants of up to $30, 000 (US$15,000) to be used on various technical assistance projects including, but not limited to resource efficiency and renewable energy; digitisation of business; marketing and promotions; building resilience; purchase and upgrade of capital goods; certification; capacity building and protection of intellectual property rights.