After the successful implementation of the stimulus package, this time the SME Foundation has asked for a fund of Tk300 crore to help women entrepreneurs shake off the Covid-19 pandemic blues.
The foundation has taken this initiative so that the pandemic-hit women entrepreneurs can continue and expand their business, the foundation mentioned in its letters recently sent to the finance ministry for the funds.
Tk200 crore has been sought for Covid-walloped women entrepreneurs in rural areas and an allocation of Tk100 crore for the formation of Women Entrepreneurship Development Fund in light of the National SME Policy-2019, the letters added.
The SME Foundation, which works for the development of small and medium enterprises, said the country's cottage, small and medium enterprises have suffered the most in the pandemic and entrepreneurs need loan assistance to overcome the impacts.
The demand for loans is much higher, especially from women entrepreneurs with small capital, according to the foundation officials. Entrepreneurs in the small and cottage industries will be able to turn around by getting over the coronavirus effect if loans are arranged, they added.
"Women entrepreneurs have suffered a lot in the pandemic. Financial support is very much needed to get over the impacts," MdMafizur Rahman, managing director of the SME Foundation, told The Business Standard.
After the coronavirus outbreak in the country, the government announced a Tk1,500crore stimulus package to encourage the cottage, small and medium industries and improve the living standards of rural marginalised people.
Under this package, SME Foundation received an allocation of Tk300 crore – Tk100 crore in the first phase of the last financial year and Tk200 crore in the current financial year.
However, due to the high demand for loans among entrepreneurs, the foundation completed the disbursement of loans through private banks and non-bank financial institutions five months ahead of the deadline.
Some 3108 entrepreneurs, mostly small and medium entrepreneurs from marginal areas, received the loan. Of the entrepreneurs, 23.70% were women.
Tk100 crore women's development fund
In the light of the SME policy, the foundation has proposed to form a Tk100 crore women entrepreneur development fund.
The policy calls for the formation of an entrepreneurship fund that aims to train women entrepreneurs, create jobs and disburse loans at reduced interest rates.
The foundation's letter to the finance ministry said the National SME Development Council (NSDC) and the National SME Task Force were formed in light of the SME policy.
NSDC is the highest policy-making committee to implement the government's commitment for the development of the SME sector and the industries minister will take its helm as the chairperson.
At a meeting of the National SME Task Force on 24 February, it was decided to send a demand to the Finance Division to form a Women Entrepreneur Development Fund.
"Distribution will start subject to receipt of this money from the government," said MdMafizur Rahman.
In addition, he said, the first instalment of Tk300 crore disbursed under the stimulus package will start coming from May.
"That money will again be allocated to small and medium entrepreneurs so that a share will also be set aside for women," he added.