Lack of access to finance still main impediment

Access to finance is still the main obstacle for women-led small and medium enterprises as banks hesitate to lend to SMEs run by women.
Women entrepreneurs complain that despite fulfilling the criteria to get bank loans, they are being denied the facility as bankers lack confidence about giving loans to women.  

According to BB data, SMEs got Tk 114,461 crore as loans up to September last year. In 2016, the loan disbursement to SMEs was Tk 141,935 crore while in 2017 was Tk 161,811 crore.   

As per the BB's instructions, 20 per cent of all bank loans must go to SMEs.

Talking to The Independent, Nadira Hossain, owner of Ghoroa Boutiques in the Mirpur area, said she tried several times to get access to bank credit, but all her efforts went in vain. “I have been running my business from 2012. Though I have fulfilled all criteria, except getting a guarantor, I did not get any loan,” she added.  

Jonaki Haque, proprietor of Jonaki Boutiques and also president of the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries (Rajshahi division), told The Independent that they are working for women’s empowerment. She has got several complaints from women, saying the women are not getting loans,” said Jonaki.

She said lack of confidence in women entrepreneurs was a reason for banks’ reluctance to finance them. She further said many women entrepreneurs did not have a clear idea about the facilities they can avail of due to lack of promotional activities on part of banks.

“Though it is said that banks disbursed thousands of crores of taka as SME loans every year, but SME entrepreneurs continue to say only a few of them got such loans,” said an official of the SME Foundation.

He also said many of the borrowers getting loans were not real SMEs. Banks show their other loans as those given SMEs to meet the set targets, he added.

Mirza Nurul Ghani Shovon, president of the National Association of Small and Cottage Industries Bangladesh, said it was a common problem for SMEs. He also said the matter had been taken up with the BB.

“We have talked several times with the bank authorities about the matter. In my opinion, Bangladesh Bank should take initiatives so that the targeted amount actually goes to SME entrepreneurs,” he added.

SM Shaheen Anwar, deputy managing director of the SME Foundation, told The Independent that he too received several such complaints. The bank authorities give their usual reasons for rejecting loan to certain SMEs.

“Without knowing about the loan process or what criteria have to be fulfilled to get loans, people lodge complaints. In most cases, the applicants do not fulfill the loan requirement,” he said, adding that those facing rejection despite meeting criteria should get in touch with him.

“I will talk to the bank authorities in this regard,” he noted.  

He said they were regularly conducting awareness programmes among bank officials and SMEs with the help of BB.

A total of 280 SME entrepreneurs, including 188 women entrepreneurs, exhibited their products at a seven-day SME fair at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the capital last week.

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