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Bahrain sets up $26m fund to help SMEs

A BD10 million ($26.53 million) fund for Bahrain’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) was launched yesterday to help them cope with the effects of the global economic crisis and the recent unrest.

The Enterprise Support Fund (ESF), launched by Tamkeen, will be distributed to 2,000 distressed SMEs that qualify for a grant. It was originally planned to be introduced earlier this year, but due to the political unrest it was delayed and modified to benefit larger numbers of businesses.

‘The idea for the fund dates back to before the unfortunate political events in Bahrain and was originally planned to help SMEs during the economic crisis,’ Tamkeen Private Sector Support senior manager Mohammed Ali Bucheery told a Press conference at Beit Al Tijjar, Sanabis. ‘Since then, the plan has been modified to accommodate a larger number of beneficiaries.

‘The reality of the situation is that these political events had a direct impact on SMEs. Certain types of SMEs, such as service providers and retailers, have been particularly affected and we want to help them sustain their businesses.’ SMEs across the country will be able to register for the ESF grant scheme from Sunday.

Bucheery said that an enterprise would be considered distressed if it had witnessed a sustained decline in sales or revenue, resulting in insufficiency of income generated by business activities to meet its operation expenses or financial obligations. This is in addition to the businesses facing unsustainable borrowings, debts or loans to carry on with regular activities.

The fund is open only to Bahrain-based SMEs with an active commercial registration certificate or license. It should have been generating an annual revenue of BD100,000 or less, have 50 employees or less and active for at least a year. Registration will take place at the ESF offices in the Meral Building, Seef, which will be open from 8am to 4pm from Sunday to Thursday.

Following registration, SMEs will be informed if they are eligible to apply for the grant. The grants will be distributed in three categories, covering up to BD3,500, up to BD5,000 and up to BD10,000. Each application will undergo an intense distress assessment specific to each category before it is approved and the grant distributed.

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