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Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw, makes his 2021/22 Sectoral Debate presentation in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (May 11), under the theme ‘Overcoming Challenges: Recovering Stronger and Faster’. At left is State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Dr. the Hon. Norman Dunn.
Photo: Donald De La Haye

The Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce has earmarked $1 billion to fund the ‘Go Digital’ initiative, being spearheaded by the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) to support small businesses.

Speaking in the 2021/22 Sectoral Debate in the House on May 11, under the theme ‘Overcoming Challenges: Recovering Stronger and Faster’, Portfolio Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw, said the initiative is being undertaken in recognition of the critical need for the digital transformation of the business landscape, particularly micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), in light of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The organisation reports that among other COVID-19-induced adverse impacts, some 34 per cent of its clients experienced a reduction in sales and 22 per cent had to close temporarily,” Mr. Shaw informed.

Against this background, the Minister said the JBDC has responded with a number of strategic actions to support the small business sector.

“Chief among these being the accelerated use of digital and online options to facilitate both e-commerce and business development services,” Mr. Shaw noted.

He advised that the funds for the Go Digital initiative have been provided from the $5 billion allocated to the Ministry from the Government’s $60-billion Social and Economic Recovery and Vaccine (SERVE) Programme.

“This is in addition to the support already provided under the COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Programme for the small business sector,” he further indicated.

Mr. Shaw said a key engagement being embarked on under the Go Digital initiative is the establishment of a business resource centre through a partnership between the JBDC and Sagicor Bank, which will provide MSME funding support.

He informed that MSMEs utilising the Sagicor Business Resource Centre will benefit from an “all-encompassing suite” of business support services.

“This is in addition to the 13 business support centres operated by the JBDC across the island in partnership with various stakeholders, including educational institutions,” the Minister added.

Mr. Shaw advised that the Bank’s clients will also have access to all of JBDC’s services and partner programmes.

As it relates to the 20 per cent set-aside regime for MSMEs, under the Public Procurement Act, Mr. Shaw advised that five procurement opportunities were advertised for MSMEs in December 2020, thereby launching the pilot programme.

“For this [2021/22] fiscal year, 74 procurement opportunities, valued at $292 million for contracts under $15 million, have been identified for implementation under the pilot project,” he further informed the House.

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