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Caribbean Export launches new initiative to help MSMEs

Monday, March 19, 2018

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The Barbados-based Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) Monday launched its new look Direct Assistance Grant Scheme (DAGS) providing significantly more financial assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the region.

Barbados Industry Minister Donville Inniss said it will provide “innovative financing” critical to supporting MSMEs under the initiative that is being funded under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) Regional Private Sector Development Programme.

“In an environment where access to finance has been identified globally as one of the most critical challenges to business growth and development, DAGS has been positioned to lend targeted support to those established businesses with strong export potential, thereby facilitating the enhancement of their contribution to regional economic development,” Inniss said.

He said the focus of access both to capital and market interventions must primarily be on promoting global enterprise competitiveness among those MSMEs that fall within identified special development sectors of the region.

Inniss said that this was very critical and that business support organisations could not do everything for everyone and Caribbean countries have to determine priority areas and make strategic investments in them.

“This must be so, given the limited financial resources we are able to attract as a region, sometimes as a result of the current realities of our own doings. This being the case, there is therefore greater need for both programme and institutional consolidation to guide our efforts at export promotion and facilitation,” he said.

Caribbean Export executive director, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, said that DAGS was one of the agency's most direct ways of providing support to the private sector in the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM). “The reimbursable grant fund facility is designed to provide financial assistance to companies that are exporting or have the potential to export. Companies have previously used the grants to, inter alia, update their equipment; meet international standards for food safety and other areas; participate in international trade shows; improve their packaging and branding; and to protect their intellectual property.”

She said under the previous EDF, DAGS offered two facilities of funding, namely the Regular Procedures with a maximum of Euro 30,000 (US$38,700) and the Accelerated Procedures where companies could have received up to Euro 5,000 (US$6,450).

However, with the revised DAGS programme, the ceiling has been raised to Euro 50,000 with a minimum grant amount of Euro 10,000 (US$12,900).

Coke-Hamilton said under the previous EDF funding, which spanned the period 2011-2016, a total of 282 beneficiaries from all CARIFORUM States benefitted from funds totalling Euro 5.7 million. She said the majority of these grant awardees came from the agro-processing and manufacturing sectors.

“Following an assessment of the DAGS beneficiaries, 42 per cent of firms surveyed reported that as a result of the grants, they had seen an increase in the export levels, which they estimated to be valued at US $4.9 million.

“Firms were able to expand their exports to new markets in the Caribbean, Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia/Pacific, and Africa. Additionally, news jobs were created both within these firms and in supportive industries, following the successful implementation of their respective DAGS-funded projects,” she said, noting that the beneficial companies had grown and become major contributors to regional development.

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