By Miyoko Ishigami
TOKYO, March 10 (KUNA) -- The newly-established "Kuwait National Fund for SMEs Developments," known as the National Fund, can provide effective solutions to great challenges the Kuwaiti economy has been facing, the fund's executive said Thursday. "The National Fund five Years Plan calls for more than 1,200 projects .. and creating almost 2,000 new jobs, as well as training above 7,000 Kuwaitis in the entrepreneurship programs. In our year one of operations, we expect to reach projects numbers that match those of the Industrial bank of Kuwait," Meshari Al-Mahmoud, Executive Director for the Technical Affairs at the National Fund, told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).
"The Kuwaiti economy has been suffering in the wake of the low crude prices, and accordingly the unemployment rate among youth has been increasing drastically year on year," Al-Mahmoud pointed out. The official is currently in Tokyo, where he attended the Kuwaiti-Japanese Businessmen's Committee on the previous day.
Recently, the first wave of entrepreneurs has been funded, and almost a 100 new job opportunity for Kuwaitis will be created by the end of this financial year, according to Al-Mahmoud. The total investment of the National Fund during its 5 Years Plan in those small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) project is expected to be KD 300 million.
Under the plan, the state-run fund offers to all Kuwaitis who are above 21 years old, the chance of becoming entrepreneurs, through training and funding them with the required financing, besides providing them with the land if needed, as well as works closely with them until their project becomes a sustainable company. "Moreover, if the entrepreneur is a government employee, he or she would have the option to take up to three years' business-sabbatical with paid salary. This way, the entrepreneur has all the support needed, and the risk he/she is facing is being reduced significantly," Al-Mahmoud explained about the scheme.
The financing would be a maximum of 80 percent of the KD 500,000 capital of the project, with grace period and long tenure for repayment. The projects that the National Fund has funded and those currently under evaluation are mainly in the areas of light industries, recycling, fishfarming, Information and communications technology (ICT), and Food and Beverage.
Meanwhile, during the Kuwaiti-Japanese Committee meeting, Al-Mahmoud highlighted that the fund would welcome a discussion with the Japanese party to join in supporting the SMEs in Kuwait through technology transfer as well as training in the areas of ICT and light industries. He also invited the Japanese investors to discuss the opportunities in details in the near future.
The National Fund was established in 2013 with a total capital of KD 2 billion as part of the government's effort to support the youth, combat unemployment, and enable the private sector to drive economic growth. (end) mk.lb