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Micro financiers seek inclusion in post-COVID-19 recovery process


JAMAICA’S micro financiers are concerned that they are not included in the deliberations on post-COVID-19 economic recovery, including at the level of the task force appointed to make recommendations to the Government.

Acting president of the Jamaica Micro Financing Association (JaMFA), Andrew Mais told the Jamaica Observer that his body has joined with the other major micro finance association — the Jamaica Association for Micro-Financing Ltd (JAMFIN) — to create a joint representative committee to take the issue to the Government.

Mais said it is unfortunate that neither the microfinancing institutions nor the Small Business Association (SBA) are represented on the task force, which is expected to make an initial report to Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke, this week.

“We believe that the absence of representatives of the microfinancing sector from these deliberations is a grave oversight on the part of the Government, in terms of the structure of the microfinancing community and the role that our members play in terms of financing micro, small and medium-sized businesses in Jamaica,” Mais said.

JaMFA Executive Director Raymond Gabbidon saw the situation as a “grave insult” to the micro financiers, as well as their clients, considering their contribution of approximately two per cent to Jamaica’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Asked whether it was not too late to raise a cry against their absence from the task force, Mais said that even at this point it is necessary for the associations to raise the issue as there is likely to be more work for the task force, and other formats, for discussing the way forward in terms of the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

“We think that the minister of finance must review the composition of this task force with a view to including this sector. They have to look at it in terms of the large number of micro, medium and small business enterprises which rely on us for financial support. These enterprises play an important role in the life of a significant number of Jamaicans,” Mais said.

“Micro financiers have played an integral role in the growth and development of these small businesses, as well as in the lives of thousands of Jamaicans who are unable to find other means of financing their investments and rely on them for loans to meet their commitments,” he said.

“We are critically placed within a section of the society that gives us an opportunity to understand the dynamics that affect these small investors, and it is our mission to continue to play a critical role in their lives. The Government has done the right thing in establishing a task force to inform whatever decisions are to be taken, but we think that you need to have all the critical players around the table,” he added.

According to Gabbidon, there is about $28 billion circulating in the microfinance sector and, with so much money circulating in the sector and so many small businesses which have been seriously affected by the pandemic, the Government should not ignore their importance.

He said that the micro financiers are already involved in doing a survey to determine the needs of small investors who are clients, which could produce important details that must be addressed for the success of the recovery programme.

Admitting that the presence of the MSME Alliance’s Donovan Wignall on the task force, which may have been the reason for the absence of other representatives from the small business sector, Gabbidon said that he was not even aware that the alliance still existed until the membership of the task force was named.

Mais noted that the microlenders have been providing not only loans to assist poor Jamaican clients, but also provide family guidance and advice on new situations that arise from time to time.

“I believe that our clients see us as more than just financiers or bankers. I believe that there is a level of trust, confidence and a relationship with the players. They come to us for direction and guidance on real-life issues as well,” he noted.

The JaMFA spokesmen said that they will be awaiting a response for a meeting with the finance minister, which they have sought through the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.

JaMFA was formed in 2008 by microfinance companies Worldnet Investments Limited, Kris An Charles Investments Ltd, and First Union Finance Limited. The association seeks to change the image and conduct of money lenders in Jamaica’s microfinance sector.

 

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