By Andy Sambidge
Labour fund Tamkeen announces support for small businesses hit by recent uprisings in kingdom
A BD10m ($26.5m) fund has been set up in Bahrain to offer rescue packages to small and medium-sized businesses that have been worst hit by the recent political and social uprising.
Bahrain's labour fund Tamkeen announced the initiative in coordination with the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday following talks on how best to help struggling companies.
To qualify for help, the company must have been in business for at least one year, have less than 50 employees and an annual turnover of less than BD100,000, Tamkeen said.
It added that the Support Fund Programme would "help these companies tide over their financial gaps and set course for a new period of business sustainability and growth".
Initially, the programme is restricted to approximately 2,000 beneficiaries, it added.
"Our preliminary market study finds that the recent challenges in the region had an impact on the private sector and, as with all periods of uncertainty, the SMEs are the worst hit," said Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, chairman and acting chief executive.
"Bahrain's leadership are keenly aware that the business community's well-being is the backbone of future prosperity and we have been inspired by the many incentives and rescue packages that the government has initiated, to draw up this Support Fund Programme.
"It will provide much-needed relief for SMEs and strengthen them and the Bahrain economy for the brighter days ahead." he added.
The initiative comes on top of moves to suspend monthly Labour Market Regulatory Authority LMRA fees (BD10) for every expat worker for the next six months and the suspension of the five percent levy for the hospitality industry.
Tamkeen said the financial support can be used for covering rents of property or vehicles, insurance payments, utility bills or staff salaries.
"At this stage we are providing this programme with a substantial budget of BD10m to extend support to SMEs in need and would also reignite the economy as the money would be circulated back into the economy. This fund will be closely monitored and assessed to ensure that it does meet the private sector's needs and challenges," the Tamkeen chairman added.