Disburse SME stimulus fast: experts
The government should ensure that stimulus funds for the cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises (CMSMEs) are quickly disbursed in order to facilitate sustainable recovery from the Covid-19 fallouts, according to speakers at a webinar yesterday.
The event, styled "Impact of Covid-19 on CMSMEs and Understanding their Recovery: Evidence from BSCIC Industrial Estates", was jointly organised by Economic Reporters' Forum (ERF) and PRISM Programme.
While speaking as chief guest, Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun said the CMSMEs were the worst affected by the pandemic even though the government had announced a Tk 20,000 crore stimulus package for the sector.
Another Tk 1,500 crore stimulus package was announced for entrepreneurs in rural areas. Of this amount, Tk 300 crore was allocated for SME Foundation, which disbursed Tk 100 crore from the fund in the outgoing fiscal year, he added.
Abul Kashem Khan, chairperson of Business Initiative Leading Development (BUILD), stressed on the need to address the barriers that prevent the CMSMEs from availing stimulus funds.
"Apart from the banking sector, an alternative mechanism should be developed for the distribution of these funds," he said, adding that formulating a database on the CMSMEs would help ensure better policy design.
Ahsan Khan Chowdhury, chairman and chief executive officer of Pran-RFL Group, said if micro and small entrepreneurs were protected from the Covid-19 fallouts through financing, they could facilitate the country's full economic recovery.
The Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation could create links between large and small-scale industries in order to help ensure their survival, he added.
Rizwan Rahman, president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, proposed the withdrawal of advance income tax as well as the tax levied on online sales in order to spur the growth of e-commerce and digitalisation of the CMSMEs.
In his presentation, Dr Monzur Hossain, research director of the Bangladesh Institute of Development, showed that 96 per cent of the country's businesses had been adversely affected by the nationwide lockdowns aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.
However, the CMSME sector recovered up to 80 per cent of the pre-pandemic production levels by December 2020, he said. Golam Yahia, additional secretary to the industries ministry, said the CMSMEs were playing a big role towards the country's industrialisation and that Bangladesh could become a developed nation by 2041 by successfully implementing the SME policy.
The event, chaired by ERF President Sharmeen Rinvy, was also attended by Rensje Teerink, the European Union ambassador and head of delegation to Bangladesh, and Md Mostaque Hassan, chairman of the BSCIC.
Monzur Hossain, research director of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, and a senior short-term consultant of the PRISM project, presented a keynote paper.