GOB sets $14M to assist small businesses

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The Government of Belize is preparing to execute an initiative to assist micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which have greatly suffered the ill effects of COVID-19. Through this three-month assistance program, the MSME Support Program, GOB is hoping that up to $14 million can be dedicated toward the assistance of these MSMEs. This comes from monies borrowed from the Central Bank of Belize for COVID-19 relief.
This and other post-COVID economic activities are being finalized and executed via the Economic Stabilization and Recovery Committee, a smaller committee of the national taskforce. Prime Minister of Belize Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow has highlighted that it is currently in its final stages and will be tabled in Cabinet for discussion and approval in the coming week.
Applications for this program will run for three weeks beginning as early as August. Currently, there are discussions for applications to receive individual grants of $2,500 and, by calculations, up to 1,000 MSMEs would be able to receive this grant. Minister of State in the Ministry of Investment, under which BELTRAIDE falls, Hon. Tracy Taegar-Panton, has said that BELTRAIDE’s Board of Directors has approved an additional $500,000 to add to this amount so that around 200 additional MSMEs can be served. From the $14 million, $7 million would be used for wages for these MSMEs provided that social security contributions for employees are paid. The remaining $5 million, as Dr. Carla Barnett from the Economic Oversight Committee says, will be set aside to provide soft loans for MSMEs which are reopening.
Dr. Leroy Almendarez, Executive Director of BELTRAIDE, has specified that to be considered and approved for the program, these MSMEs must be engaged in a limited number of areas. These include tourism and leisure, transportation and logistics, agriculture, agro-processing, and fisheries, light manufacturing; creative and cultural industries, and commercial free zone. He added that some 60% of employment in the country is attributed to MSME’s.