TWO of the Cabinet’s most influential members want to see relief measures rushed in as a New Year gift for more than 100,000 of the country’s struggling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said yesterday that he had discussed the proposed assistance measures with Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana, who takes charge of SME matters and the SME Development Bank (SME Bank).
The ministers to expedite the relief measures for SMEs, which will be forwarded to the Cabinet by the end of this year.
So far, two of the proposed measures are certain, Somkid said. One relates to helping enterprises that have encountered obstacles but are still able to operate, and the other concerns retail and wholesale shops, small grocery shops, blue-flag shops in communities and agricultural product shops that need more working capital to buy products over the busy New Year period, Somkid said.
Uttama said that both measures form part of the Ministry of Industry's policies to strengthen SMEs. A Bt1.8-billion fund that combined two existing SMEs relief funds from the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion (Osmep) will be proposed for establishment and it will be run by SME Bank, Uttama said. The fund would help struggling SMEs to survive with relief funds that come with no interest burden on them.
“Whoever is ready to fight, we will help as much as we can,” Uttama said. “We will help strengthen them all the way through their difficulties. SME Bank will extend not only financial help but the financial knowledge SMEs they need, along with marketing assistance, the improvement of enterprises through technology and other means as necessary.”
Mongkol Leelatham, president of SME Bank, said that the local economy loan scheme, which is due to expire on December 18 and has Bt35 billion in untapped funds, will be extended by one year, or until the funds run out.
Retail and wholesale shops, small grocery shops, community shops, blue-flag shops, agricultural product traders will also be added as additional targets for this loan scheme, under the project to strengthen trade in communities, he said.
This project aims to upgrade these groups' technology to digital processes with a plan to help them add value, do processing, sell and price products by themselves, said Mongkol, adding that retail and wholesale business operators in all subdistricts nationwide are targeted for gaining loan access to the scheme.
This project will be connected with the Thung Ngern Pracha Rat (Pracha Rat Money Bag) mobile app, which allows shops to use mobile phones to accept payment for goods from welfare-card holders, while targeting the involvement of private partners, state-run financial institutions and state enterprises - such as PTT's oil retail business arm PTT Oil and Retail Business Plc - to help SMEs in a number of ways such as training, market channel expansion, business matching and upgrades of product standards, he said.
The proposed Bt1.8-billion fund will help SMEs that have fallen into financial traps and then strengthen them, he said.
Mongkol said that the bank has upgraded its work through a platform known as SME D Bank as a means of helping SMEs nationwide to easily access capital at any place and any time. The platform combines over 150 business tool boxes and more than 1,000 items in an e-library.