Thu | Jan 28, 2021

PSOJ Access to Finance initiative reformats outreach to SMEs

Published:Wednesday | April 8, 2020 | 12:18 AM

THE ACCESS to Finance Facilitation Panel (AFFP) formed by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica last year, has tweaked its communication format from workshop to a Facebook Live Podcast to help small enterprises navigate the coronavirus crisis, and identify emerging business opportunities.

The podcast, dubbed ‘COVID-CastJA: Business’, will have its third airing on Thursday, covering issues on managing the workforce during the COVID-19 outbreak. The series is expected to run for at least another four weeks.

The spread of COVID-19 in Jamaica is seen as a threat to SMEs’ supply chain, business cash flow and, ultimately, the continuity of business operation. However, the AFFP notes that it is confident that with the right tools, many SMEs can recover from an economic fallout.

It is that confidence, along with the mindset that SMEs are key drivers of the economy and need to be supported during this global pandemic, which led to the inception of COVIDCastJA.

First Podcast

The Facebook Live Podcast was launched on March 26, and hosted by AFFP project executive Rochelle Cameron and project architect Nevada Powe. The first podcast was centred around encouraging SMEs to make bold requests of their bankers, and was followed by an episode which discussed COVID-19 Financial Relief Packages, with representatives from First Global Bank, Scotiabank Jamaica, National Commercial Bank, and JMMB Bank.

The SMEs would have also benefited from the Factories Corporation of Jamaica’s announcement of the removal of rent charges and cessation of maintenance increases for six months, from April 1 to September 30.

The AFFP for SMEs was launched in June with the aim of assisting micro and small businesses in accessing credit through collaborative efforts among bank CEOs; loan originators; credit risk specialists; regulators; as well as representatives from the credit bureaus; the Development Bank of Jamaica, DBJ; and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.

The goal is to create products, solutions, platforms, and processes that are ‘fit for purpose’, taking into consideration accounts receivables as collateral, the creation of a dedicated SME section on most financial institutions’ websites, more friendly SME credit adjudication processes, increased access to DBJ’s credit enhancement facility, and the inclusion of micro and small enterprises in credit bureaus’ databases.

The initiative was initially planned as a five-part series of workshops, two of which we held last year and covered topics including ‘Partnership for SME Empowerment’. The third was slated for March and was to be centred around brainstorming ideas around the incorporation of new credit models for high-risk small and medium-sized enterprises. That programme was however reviewed on confirmation of the new coronavirus in Jamaica.