SME Foundation needs specific annual allocation
SME Foundation needs to be provided a specific budgetary allocation each year to ensure that entrepreneurs get easy access to finance, speakers told a webinar yesterday.
"To implement various plans, including the SME (small and medium enterprise) policy, a five-year strategic plan is required," said Managing Director Md Mafizur Rahman.
The webinar was jointly organised by SME Foundation and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (Unido) marking Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day 2021 yesterday.
The United Nations declared the day, being celebrated for the fifth time, aiming to create decent employment and improve living standards of the micro, small and medium sector.
This is the first time SME Foundation is officially celebrating the day through various events.
The foundation has already disbursed some Tk 100 crore in loans among its target groups from the government's incentive package to tackle challenges stemming from the pandemic, said Rahman.
He said they developed a five-year (2021-25) strategic development vision, under which Tk 200 crore in incentive packages would be disbursed and two business incubation centres established in Dhaka and Chattogram.
The foundation has set a target to create at least 5,000 entrepreneurs, especially women entrepreneurs, in various fields and provide them training on skills and cluster-based development, he said.
He believes implementing the SME Policy 2019 for the sector, which accounts for a quarter of the country's economy, requires establishing departmental and district level offices.
Even amidst the pandemic, small entrepreneurs are emerging in remote villages around the country and now their skills needed to be developed, said Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun.
The SME Policy 2019 aims to increase the sector's contribution to the economy to 32 per cent by 2024, said Kamal Ahmed Majumder, state minister for industries.
He said over 99 per cent of the 613,000 plus industrial establishments in the country were cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises.
He requested the prime minister to enable special allocations to be made for SME Foundation, reasoning that it would accelerate implementation of the government's development goals.
At present, 13,000 entrepreneurs are working in 7,000 digital centers, said Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for information and communication technology.
The government is working to create more than 30 lakh jobs in the ICT sector by 2025, he said.
Palak expressed commitment to work together with the SME Foundation to create more entrepreneurs through digital services.
The SME entrepreneurs have been deprived of government incentives as they did not have good relations with banks, said Md Jashim Uddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
"Therefore, alternative ways of financing needs to be provided for this industry. There should be separate allocations for SMEs in economic zones," he said.
He also called for disbursing the incentive loans for the SMEs through SME Foundation.
Giving a presentation, Rene Van Berkel, regional representative for Unido, said Bangladesh's GDP growth was very good as the SME sector had performed well.
Presided over by Prof Md Masudur Rahman, chairperson of SME Foundation, Md Akhter Hossain, senior secretary to the youth and sports ministry, and Zakia Sultana, industries secretary, among others, addressed the webinar.