The government will provide grants to entrepreneurs so they can make investments to boost the production of medical and personal protective equipment in the country to help contain the spread of Covid-19.
Entrepreneurs will get up to $500,000 from the $7.5 million fund of the World Bank's ongoing Export Competitiveness for Job project.
Sources at the commerce ministry said the small and medium entrepreneurs who had been manufacturing medical equipment and PPE with innovative and new technologies would get 60% of their investments in the form of grants whereas big investors would have half of their project costs coming from the WB fund.
However, the amount of money given in grants will range from a minimum of $50,000 to a maximum $500,000, upon the submission of applications from aspirants. Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi will launch the Covid-19 investment-friendly fund at a virtual meeting today, said a senior official of the ministry, Abdul Latif Bakshi.
The WB has set the criterion to be met for getting the financial support, said an additional secretary of the ministry requesting not to be named. Though the project name implies that it is meant for exporters, entrepreneurs delivering PPE to the local market will also get support from the fund.
The Export Competitiveness for Job project had $17.5 million export readiness fund, of which $10 million has already been distributed by the commerce ministry as investment support to leather, footwear, light engineering and plastic industries.
Amid the spike of coronavirus infection in Bangladesh and other parts of the world, the government hired the UK-based Lindell Mills and Young Consultants Ltd to make use of the remaining of the fund to support the units that have been manufacturing medical tools and PPE.
Entrepreneurs engaged in designing, developing and packaging PPE, Covid diagnostic equipment and clinical care equipment and in research and innovation will get grants from the fund.
PRAN-RFL Group, Bashundhara Group and JMI are among the big organisations that have been producing masks. JMI has been manufacturing KN95 masks of Chinese standards. Many pharmaceutical companies, including ACI, Orion and Square, have been producing sanitizers.
Bangladesh did not produce PPE before the pandemic, but now many companies, including Beximco are making high-quality PPE and exporting those to the US, Canada and many European nations.