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$26.5m Tamkeen fund to support SMEs

Manama, June 2, 2010

A new BD10 million ($26.5 million) Support Fund will soon help 1,000 small and medium businesses affected by the recession, Tamkeen officials have announced.

It is being developed by a joint committee consisting of Tamkeen, Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry and General Federation of Workers Trade Unions.

The new scheme is based on a study of the condition of Bahrain's small and medium enterprises (SMEs) conducted by KPMG at the end of last year, according to officials.

It follows a series of protests by SME owners who are angered by a BD10 monthly fee that applies to every expatriate working in Bahrain.

The fees are collected by Labour Market Regulatory Authority on behalf of the government.

Eighty per cent of the fees go to Tamkeen to train Bahrainis for the work place, create jobs and support local businesses.

"This programme is Tamkeen's pro-active response to the challenges faced by SMEs in relation to general economic developments," said chairman Dr Nezar Al Baharna.

SMEs that are either 100 per cent or at least 51 per cent Bahraini-owned can apply for assistance of up to BD10,000 under several schemes, according to initial plans.

"This means that we are aiming to support 1,000 SMEs," Dr Al Baharna, who is also Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told a Press conference at Tamkeen in Sanabis.

"We have always built programmes for SMEs in the belief that they are the engines of economic development and innovation.

"This particular programme is developed to empower SMEs and help them sustain themselves in a very competitive market.

"By making funds available for basic business requirements, we believe that we are empowering these SMEs and nurturing them for better times ahead," he added.

Tamkeen chief executive Abdulellah Al Qassimi said that the project was expected to start in September.

"It will provide support over a two-year period to enterprises evaluated as being at risk," he said.

Two more years of follow-up will then be carried out to ensure that the companies are using the support correctly.

Schemes include support to pay utility fees, premises leasing, social security through General Organisation for Social Insurance (Gosi) and payroll support for Bahraini employees, vehicles and machinery rental as well as insurance for building, equipment and vehicles.

The fund will subsidise up to 70 per cent of the schemes, except for the Gosi fees, which will be subsidised by up to 100 per cent for Bahraini employees.

"SMEs can benefit from more than one scheme, but will be limited to support of up to BD10,000," said private sector support senior manager Mohammed Bucheery.

"Also, they can benefit from the support for up to two years or until they reach the financial limit, whichever of those comes first, the senior manager said.

The budget of the project is estimated to be BD1 million for operating costs, said Bucheery.

Two agencies will be chosen to help execute the programme, said officials.

The first will evaluate enterprises to identify their susceptibility and worthiness.

The second will manage provision of financial support according to the proposed programmes. The agencies are yet to be chosen by a tendering process.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | economy | investment | KPMG | finance | Tamkeen | SME sector |

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