DBJ rolls out online portal for voucher funding applicants
The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), in collaboration with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PIOJ), has launched an online application portal for its Voucher for Technical Assistance Programme (VTAP).
The funding window provides grants to small companies.
DBJ launched the VTAP four years ago, seeded by funds from its own resources. The state bank is now looking to the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank for additional capital to grow the pool, Managing Director Milverton Reynolds told Gleaner Business following the launch of the online portal on Friday.
"We allocated $45 million at the start," said Reynolds.
"We are looking to get, with the help of the multilaterals, somewhere in the region of about US$1.5 million to augment what we are doing."
The VTAP provides grants for small and medium-sized companies to access services such as training programmes, auditing services, market research, business and strategic plans, among others, through business development companies (BDOs) approved by the DBJ.
Under the programme, the DBJ issues electronic vouchers for the support services to the BDOs, with the MSMEs paying a portion of the overall cost for the service.
Since May 2014, some 434 vouchers have been issued to 289 entrepreneurs across the island to both male- and female-operated businesses, the DBJ said.
"These vouchers have allowed 12 loans amounting to $168 million and supporting $265 million in investment," the state investment bank said.
INCREASE IN SERVICES
The number of services paid for under the programme was also increased from five to 27, given the demand for the increasing requests from both the business community and the participating financial institutions, the DBJ said.
It is for this reason, the DBJ said, it also opted to expand the medium through which MSMEs apply for the grants.
The www.findmsmefinancing.com portal was developed in collaboration with the UWI, Reynolds said at the launch.
The DBJ further took on the PSOJ "as a strategic partner", to handle the applications to the VTAP.
"The demand for vouchers became so overwhelming that we could no longer handle the applications in-house, so we decided to outsource the administration and management aspects of the programme," Reynolds said.
But is seems that the VTAP may expand even further if the DBJ follows through on a suggestion from Orville Christie of Boldeck Jamaica Limited to offer training services online geared at teaching the fundamentals of operating a business.
"That's an excellent suggestion and we will definitely take it on board," Reynolds said.
The idea, says Christie, is to meet entrepreneurs where they are at their desks, in their offices since they often are "too swamped" to make it to workshops during regular business hours.