Jamaica Government to Access Dormant Bank Accounts to Assist Small Businesses

Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Audley Shaw.

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday March 1, 2019 – Government has initiated steps to tap into nearly J$50 billion (US$390 million) in dormant bank accounts, which are being sought to provide low-interest financing to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Audley Shaw says a consultancy group has been contracted and tasked with the responsibility of reviewing and advising the Andrew Holness-led administration on this engagement.

He made the disclosure at a Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) stakeholder breakfast forum yesterday.

The action comes against the background of the governance framework which. Shaw noted stipulates a 15-year timeline before the dormant funds can be accessed by the State.

This compares to the international standard of seven years, and the five-year timeline in the United States.

Shaw, who advised that he met with the consultants earlier this week, indicated that the group is “actively” exploring the matter and will submit reports on the outcomes.

“The first report is due in April [and] the second report by July, which I will then be sharing with the Minister of Finance and the Public Service, because accessing dormant funds has got to be a part of the landscape of finding affordable funding for small and medium enterprises… and we are serious about it,” the Industry and Commerce Minister emphasized.

He said access to affordable financing has been identified as a major constraint to MSME growth and development in Jamaica.

“In fact, the JBDC has reported that 73 per cent of MSMEs see capital as the most needed resource for production,” Shaw added.

The Minister argued that in order to attain higher levels of economic growth, “we have to ensure that we get capital into the hands of our entrepreneurs at reasonable attractive low single-digit interest rates”.

“So, as we put our sights on the year ahead, we must sharpen our focus to put action to our commitments,” he said.

Meanwhile, Shaw lauded JBDC’s management and staff for their work with MSME stakeholders.

“I continue to be very impressed with the work of the JBDC, particularly in the last year, which saw some 56 training sessions held to provide MSMEs with capacity building. I’m also advised that the company conducted over 4,469 consultations with 4,399 clients,” he noted.

The Minister said this is indicative of the agency’s “seriousness” and “level of strategic focus” placed on discharging its mandate as the Government agency responsible for providing support to spur MSME growth.

“We look forward to another successful year, not just for the Jamaica Business Development Corporation, but, importantly, our micro, small and medium-sized enterprises,” Minister Shaw added.

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