The government has opened a new funding window to meet the growing demand of medical and personal protective equipment (MPPE) in local and international markets and to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Commerce initiated the fund, the COVID-19 Enterprise Response Fund (CERF), of US$7.5 million matching-grant under the Export Competitiveness for Jobs (EC4J) project with the support of the World Bank Group, according to a press release.
"The CERF will support private enterprises to procure plant, equipment, materials and know-how for rapid repurposing of capacity to produce MPPE products on a sustainable basis," it said.
"CERF grants will be made available to private Bangladeshi firms, which are in the production or have plans to manufacture qualifying MPPE products, from any industry sector," the press release said.
CERF grants will range from US$50,000 (minimum grant size) to US$500,000 (maximum grant size) for supported projects. The contribution of the grant recipients will be 40 per cent for SMEs and 50 per cent for large enterprises.
Key product or service features supported by the CERF will include:
* Manufacturing of MPPE products including personal protective equipment, diagnostic equipment and clinical care equipment.
* MPPE product design, including, for example, modifications to technical specifications and packaging, buyers’ designs, etc.
* Services for MPPE such as research, development, certification and testing, and support to new techniques to establish, diversify or extend a firm’s range of saleable MPPE products/services, or their introduction and adaptation.
Out of the total applications, about 50 applications will be accepted on competitive basis for this CERF.
The fund was launched at a virtual ceremony with the presence of Commerce Minister Tipu Mushi, Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman, and World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan Mercy Miyang Tembon. Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce Dr Md Jafar Uddin chaired the launching ceremony of the fund.
Speaking at the function as chief guest, the commerce minister said these health and medical safety products against COVID-19 will be produced not only for domestic market, but also for international market.
He informed that the matching grants to be provided under CERF to the competitive firms ranging between $50,000 to $5,00,000 is a great milestone.
"We hope our producers will take advantage of the fund to successfully tap into a new product segment which is critical to face the COVID-19. I believe it (CERF) will work for the interest of the people and also for the world," the minister added.
Citing that the RMGs still represent around 80 per cent of the country's total exports, Salman said, "We're now in a position to penetrate our other products in the global value chain, our entrepreneurs are indomitable,"
The prime minister's advisor also hoped that, this matching grant facility under ERF would help the local entrepreneurs to expand their export market.
With the rolling out of the COVID-19 vaccines in the country, the World Bank Country Director hoped that Bangladesh would bounce back better in the coming days.
She also hoped that the CERF would go a long way to the process of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commerce secretary urged the local entrepreneurs to come forward and thus apply for this grant on first come, first serve basis.
Project Director of EC4J Project and Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce Md Hafizur Rahman, team leader of ERF management unit Dave Runganaikaloo, World Bank representative and private sector specialist Hosna Ferdous Sumi and deputy team leader of ERF management unit Emdadul Haque were also present at the virtual launching.