Entrepreneurs will now get financial support from the government to produce medical and personal protective equipment (MPPE) for both local and international markets as the fight against Covid-19 continues.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi yesterday launched a $7.5 million Covid-19 response fund to help private enterprises procure the necessary equipment in this regard as the demand for MPPE products has ballooned amid an ongoing second wave of infections.
The fund, styled "Covid-19 Enterprise Response Fund (CERF)", is an initiative of the Export Competitiveness for Jobs (EC4J) project which is currently being implemented by the commerce ministry with support from World Bank Group.
"Under the CERF, grants ranging between $50,000 and $500,000 will be provided to private enterprises for procuring manufacturing plants, equipment, materials, and the know-how for rapid repurposing of capacity to produce MPPE products on a sustainable basis," said Md Hafizur Rahman, project director and additional secretary of the commerce ministry. About 50 applications for the grant will be accepted on a competitive basis, he added.
Speaking as chief guest, Munshi said the purpose of producing these health and medical safety products is not just to tap into the domestic market, but also the international ones.
"We hope our producers will take advantage of the fund to successfully tap into a new product segment which is critical to face Covid-19. I believe the CERF will work for the interest of the people and also the world," he added.
Salman F Rahman, private industry and investment adviser to the prime minister, said the government has taken various steps in its fight against the current crisis.
The CERF is one such initiative to build the resilience of domestic producers of MPPE in an ever-changing world.
"It will strengthen the government's plan to boost the exports," Rahman added.
Dr Md Jafar Uddin, senior secretary of the commerce ministry, urged local entrepreneurs to come forward and apply for this grant on a first-come-first-serve basis.
"The CERF will push to strongly integrate Bangladesh with the global value chain," Uddin said.
Highlighting some salient features of the CERF, World Bank's Country Director for Bangladesh Mercy Tembon said the CERF would boost production of MPPE by local entrepreneurs, increase domestic supply and subsequently exports.
The EC4J project was initially a $10 million matching-grant programme that provided financial support to eligible Bangladeshi firms in four targeted sectors -- Leather goods, footwear, plastics, and light engineering -- to identify gaps, catalyse investment and improve environmental, social and quality standards in an effort to enhance their competitiveness in export markets.
The purpose of the EC4J is to integrate Bangladesh in the global value chain. The Export Readiness Fund, another part of the EC4J, provides grant-based incentives to firms to support exports.