As local entrepreneurs and MSMEs search for ways to reinvigorate their businesses and recover from the economic strains of the coronavirus pandemic, National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited (NCB) affirmed its support with the launch of a new fund, NCB SME Boost, to exclusively support local small and medium-sized entities (SMEs).
Speaking at the recently-held Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Members’ (JMEA) Forum, Sheree Martin, NCB’s Head of Retail Banking and Customer Experience, noted that the fund is intended to support SMEs with access to working capital, machinery and other equipment, facility upgrades, growth and expansion, alternative energy projects and more.
Through NCB’s SME Boost, SMEs can access anywhere from $2 million to $250 million in financing to support their business initiatives with up to 15 years to repay at an interest rate of 6.95 per cent.
“SMEs play a crucial role in the economic makeup of Jamaica and the wider Caribbean,” shared Sheree Martin, Hear of Retail Banking and Customer Experience at NCB. “Giving them access to financing like this is crucial to Jamaica’s continued economic recovery – it is the engine for long-term financial growth and sustainability in our country,” Martin posited.
Martin also observed the increased need for financing for SMEs, against the backdrop of the current state of the global economy and supply chain, both of which have been severely impacted by the pandemic, and more recently, the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
“With the continuous, unpredictable and unprecedented rise in fuel costs, there is much uncertainty among our SME owners and entrepreneurs, many of whom make up part of the JMEA membership community,” Martin observed. “NCB wants to empower SMEs, especially our manufacturers and exporters to continue driving towards growth and building resilience.”
Responding to questions about the role of the new facility in enabling its members, JMEA President John Mahfood, emphasized the need for the membership to have access to the facility. “This is how the country is going to grow, by having small businesses getting bigger and bigger, that’s how most countries grow. – we (Jamaica) have to find more ways of encouraging small companies and I think the latest fund that NCB has put forward could be part of the solution,” shared Mahfood.
According to the National Five Year Manufacturing Growth Strategy for Jamaica, tabled in parliament in 2020, globally manufacturing accounts for 16 per cent of GDP on average, but only contributes 8.5 per cent on average to Jamaica’s GDP.
The strategy, among other things, identifies the critical role of the private sector in enabling businesses to grow. In its last quarterly media briefing on the state of Jamaica’s export industry, STATIN reported that there has been increased export earnings in 2021 but revenue remained 12.9 per cent below the pre-COVID-19 pandemic level in 2019.
“We have always believed in the abilities of SMEs to withstand hardships, something they have proven yet again. Therefore, we must now help them to re-design the future through their innovation and industry, and mostly their ability to shape and reshape economies. This is why we have stepped up with SME Boost financing to help restore, rejuvenate and revolutionize our SMEs across multiple sectors, such as Manufacturing and Export, Agro-processing, Renewable Energy and Tourism,” Martin concluded. NCB’s SME Boost fund is the bank’s latest move to support Jamaica’s small and medium-sized business market, which has often lamented the challenges to access financing locally.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, NCB also launched a $20 billion fund exclusively for SMEs that were among those hit the hardest by the pandemic. With the SME Boost fund, qualifying customers can get up to 15 years to repay, at an interest rate of 6.95 per cent.