A $7.5 million fund monetised by the World Bank has been launched to help Bangladeshi companies producing medical and personal protective equipment (MPPE) to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
This Covid-19 Enterprise Response Fund (CERF) will provide loans ranging from $50,000 to $5 lakh as part of the Export Competitiveness for Jobs (EC4J) Project. The term of the fund is from April this year to December 2022.
Companies that manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), diagnostic equipment and clinical equipment for export and for local markets can avail loans from this fund. The companies must have three years of experience in the production of such products and have to maintain environmental protection rules.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi inaugurated the fund on an online event on Sunday afternoon.
The minister said, "This fund is very timely. The loan support will result in the creation of quality medical and lifesaving materials, which will help us deal with Covid-19. This loan assistance will create new opportunities for export-oriented companies."
Salman F Rahman, private sector industry and investment adviser to the Prime Minister, was present as special guest of the event.
He said, "Bangladesh will reach the level of upper middle income countries in the future. But the big challenge along the way is to create jobs. Such assistance from the World Bank will play a role in increasing employment by increasing exports."
Mercy Miyang Tembon, country director of the World Bank for Bangladesh and Bhutan, praised the government's swift action in tackling Covid-19. She said that with the help of this fund, more high quality protection materials can be made, which will make it easier to deal with the virus.
"The fund would play a role in advancing the production of health safety materials as well as help in diversifying exports, which would increase employment," she added.
Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce, Dr Md Jafar Uddin, said transparency would be maintained in the release of money from the new fund. He urged entrepreneurs to apply quickly for loans.
He said Bangladesh will be elevated from the list of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in 2026. The senior secretary continued that the WTO fears that a loss in exports from Bangladesh could result in a loss of $5-6 billion dollars for the country.
However, noting that Bangladesh is not worried about such concerns, he said his ministry is focusing on the diversification of export products and markets to meet the challenge.
The Export Competitiveness for Jobs (EC4J) Project, under the commerce ministry, is a six year project aimed at supporting the government's export diversification targets. The project is designed to enhance the growth and competitiveness of select sectors beyond Ready Made Garments (RMG), and to create more and better job opportunities.