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Practical support for small exporters through IIC program

Small and medium-sized Bahamian exporters can access direct, practical technical assistance through the$40 million funded FINPYME ExportPlus program of the Inter-American Investment Corporation(IIC).

The launch event for the FINPYME ExportPlus initiative in The Bahamas was held at the British Colonial Hilton yesterday. The program aims to help small and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs)become more competitive internationally, according to IIC Senior Trust Fund and Technical Assistance Officer Michael Apel.

“The idea is that we take this concept of bolstering international trade by bringing it down to the level of the small and medium-sized company,”Apel said.”We’re taking something that’s very theoretical in many cases, and academic and policy driven, and trying to bring it down to a very practical level of helping companies develop their export potential.”

Representatives of SMEs participating in the launch received questionnaires which will be used to determine which areas of technical assistance the program will focus on. Once determined, the program intends to provide free workshops to address specific technical constraints to the participating companies involved in the export of goods or services, according to Apel.

Over 70 percent of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce’s(BCC)membership is accounted for by SMEs, according to Khaalis Rolle, the Chamber’s president. The BCC is a strategic partner in the program.

“After access to capital, in fact I think it was equally as important in the results, access to technical support was the biggest complaint that small and medium-sized enterprises had,”Rolle said of the research the Chamber performed in preparation for the program.

Rolle expressed disappointment that more SMEs were not present for the launch.

“I am never satisfied with how we respond to these things in the initial stages,”Rolle toldGuardian Businessyesterday.”You almost have to take the hand of somesmall business people and bring them along. They understand that they are challenged, they understand they need solutions… Here you have a good program, and you have to force it down their throats in many instances.”

The deadline for receipt of the application questionnaire is February 1st, 2011, according to Narae Lee, Fellow at the Technical Assistance and Strategic Partnership Division, IIC. Lee said the program is aiming to begin training sessions in May of next year, and an evaluation of the program by November 2011.

Eligible companies should have been operating for at least three years, have annual sales of US$200,000, operate in IIC-eligible sectors and in compliance with environmental and occupational safety laws, according to Lee. Though aimed at businesses which are currently exporting, she said companies which have established a local market share and are interested in going international are eligible too.

The Republic of Korea provided$40 million in funding for the FINPYME ExportPlus program through the Korea-IIC Trust fund, according to Mr. Hun Tae Lee, IIC Trust Fund Officer and the South Korean representative to the IIC. Mr. Lee said that this trust fund is part of a total$140 million funding for three different funds to facilitate stronger and more cooperative relationships between South Korea and Latin American and Caribbean countries.

The strategic partners with the IIC for the ExportPlus program include the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, Scotiabank, the Bahamas Cooperative League, the Bahamas Institute of Financial Services, the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants and the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, according to Apel.

The IIC is a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group. According to literature from the company, the multilateral financial institution has 44 member countries and provides financing and advisory services to private enterprises in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The FINPYME program has been a positive experience throughout the region,”said Simon Wilson, Director of Economic Planning, Ministry of Finance.”We believe that experience will be no different in The Bahamas.”

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