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Industrialists, bankers urge more support for SMEs

By Mohammad Ghazal - Feb 18,2014 - Last updated at Feb 18,2014

AMMAN — Bankers, industrialists and officials voiced hope Monday that a US-supported project will help increase the facilities given to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which contribute about 60 per cent to the Kingdom’s economy.

They said the $250 million Jordan Loan Guarantee Facility (JLGF), which was established by USAID in partnership with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation following a meeting between His Majesty King Abdullah and US President Barack Obama in Washington, DC, in May 2011, was crucial to increase credit given to SMEs.

The programme seeks to provide partial loan guarantees and technical assistance to mobilise bank financing for creditworthy but underserved SMEs.

“SMEs’ contribution to the gross domestic product is more than 60 per cent and they only get less than 8 per cent of credit facilities given by banks,” Haytham Kamhiyah, general manager of Capital Bank — one of the JLGF’s partner banks, said at an event to show industrialists how they can benefit from the facility.

In an address at the event, which attracted more than 250 representatives of SMEs, US Ambassador in Amman Stuart E. Jones expressed hope that more SMEs will benefit from the programme.

He added that the JLGF has issued 69 loan guarantees to enable a wide variety of SMEs to obtain loans to finance their expansions.

“More than 500 skilled jobs are expected to be created and supported as these businesses launch and grow,” he said.

Stressing his country’s pride in the partnership with Jordan, the US diplomat said the $1 billion loan guarantee that Obama announced for Jordan during a meeting with the King in the US last week will help Jordan borrow money from international markets at a low interests rate, which will enable the Kingdom to save millions of dollars.

Jones said the US will spend about $100 million during the upcoming stage to facilitate businesses in Jordan and enhance their work.

Fathi Jaghbir, chairman of the Jordan SMEs Association and vice chairman of the Amman Chamber of Industry, said the JLGF plays a key role in supporting SMEs in the industrial sector in particular.

“One of the main problems the industrial sector faces is the lack of financing,” he said, noting that about 15 per cent of credit facilities given by banks go to the industrial sector.

Of the 15 per cent, about two-thirds go to the largest 50 industries and companies, while the last third goes for SMEs.

“This is not enough and I am hopeful the programme will help in this regard… the government also needs to address the concerns of the sector and meet with its representatives,” said Jaghbir.

Speaking at the event, Minister of Industry and Trade Hatem Halawani said the government is committed to supporting SMEs.

“We are keen to support SMEs to enable them to penetrate new markets,” said the minister. 

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