Muscat – Following a call by Redha bin Juma al Saleh, chairman of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), to provide more packages to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs), authorities are working closely with the sector to make sure SMEs continue their businesses post-pandemic.
In OCCI’s Ramadan Nights event held on Sunday under the auspices of H E Dr Mahad bin Saeed Baowain, Minister of Labour, that discussed the challenges and difficulties faced by SMEs and the role of relevant authorities and institutions in facilitating and overcoming these, Saleh said SMEs play a significant role in global economies as these are responsible for 50 per cent of gross domestic product.
“SMEs are important drivers of economic growth and social development. In addition, they play a major role in stimulating innovation and competition in the market,” he said.
Ibrahim Abdulla al Hosni, chairman of OCCI’s SMEs committee, said that an integrated system is needed to organise and empower SMEs. “There is also a need to establish a unified centre to complete transactions for all small enterprises, besides supporting Omani products.”
On his part, Dr Abdul Aziz bin Mohammad al Hinai, CEO of Oman Development Bank (ODB), informed that the bank’s portfolio currently includes approximately 30,000 loans, including 20,000 loans to SMEs and micro enterprises, constituting the largest share.
He explained that in the past two years, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the bank provided nearly 8,000 emergency loans to small investors, and a package of ‘rescue loans’ to SMEs in the form of ‘working capital’ that are repaid between 90 to 360 days.
“Most of these loans were used to pay the institutions’ obligations for their continuity and overcoming the challenges. The bank is planning new post-pandemic recovery packages.”
Hinai further added that the assets of ODB are currently valued at RO200mn, and that it has existing funds in the market amounting to RO195mn in industrial, agricultural, fisheries, services, technical, technological and other sectors.
“The bank has financed loans over RO1bn since its inception for more than 100,000 projects,” he said.
Abdulaziz bin Saeed al Raisi, vice president of Authority of Small and Medium Enterprises Development, stressed that the authority works to support entrepreneurs through the development and empowerment of such institutions, marketing and promoting these, searching for opportunities for them, and finding financing means, besides promoting and developing craft industries.