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SME relief schemes must cover business distress

2022-04-25  Maihapa Ndjavera

SME relief schemes must cover business distress

The Business Rescue Task Force (BRTF), appointed by President Hage Geingob, has recommended a review of the rules for the credit guarantee schemes to help small businesses in financial distress after the effect of the Covid-19. 

The force said scheme rules should cover all economic distress causing periods; hence, it should cover the pre-Covid-19 period as well, since the domestic economy has been suffering from a recession since 2016.

“Most SMEs are unable to motivate distress primarily as a result of Covid-19 since downward trends had been evident before, caused by the downturn in the economy. Currently, this is disqualifying these SMEs from participating in the schemes,” reads the BRTF report presented to President Hage Geingob this month. 

Bank of Namibia has an SME credit guarantee scheme in place, valued at N$500 million, which is disbursed through commercial banks. 

To date, only N$20 million of the N$500 million has been taken up, because the fund availability has to date not been properly advertised, it took too long to get off the ground, and the fact that SMEs are failing to meet internal credit rating requirements.

To address the above issues, the force said government should remove requirements such as a good standing certificate and rather replace them with a tax debt repayment arrangement letter and lower interest rates to align to the cost of funding or repo rate.

“Increase the visibility of the scheme through extensive advertising by the central bank; expand relief to not only cover future cash flow needs but include settlement of arrears on taxes, rentals and suppliers,” advised the task force.

Furthermore, the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) also rolled out a relief scheme of N$450 million and to date, only N$75 million of it has been disbursed. 

The force stated consideration is to be given to loan term extensions to increase affordability.

According to the survey conducted by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) in 2020 with a convenient sample list of 546 formal businesses across 16 sectors of the economy, over 96% of businesses responded they are adversely affected by the pandemic.

The survey further revealed that 50% of the businesses indicated they traded partially during Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, while 25.2% were temporarily closed. 

The majority of operating businesses indicated a reduction in local customer demand as the most common current and future effects experienced by 68.8% and 65.1% of the businesses, respectively.

Furthermore, 63.7% of businesses reported revenue loss of over 50% with the manufacturing sector (20.1%), hotels and restaurants (15.2%) and construction sector (11.3%) bearing most of the blunt.

2022-04-25  Maihapa Ndjavera

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