A talk with Maria Lucia Castrillon Simmonds on the Covid-19 emergency

August, 3, 2020

The pandemic is affecting all countries around the world which are responding to this unexpected crisis in different ways.

Given INSME’s global outreach, we are interviewing diverse actors from all over the world to better understand the different measures that are being implemented, in particular to support small and medium enterprises that are the backbone of economies worldwide.

We recently spoke to Maria Lucia Castrillon Simmonds, Manager at
PROPAIS, the Colombian Corporation for Small-Sized Business Development and INSME board member, who shared her country’s experience.

Q. How your country is facing the current emergency?

Colombia has struggled through these hard times as most of the countries worldwide have.
Our country has acted conservatively and in a very responsible manner when issuing norms that regulate the behaviour of its inhabitants, to strictly prevent the spread of the virus, at least for the time necessary to understand how the situation will evolve, and to be able to prepare medical services in the best possible way to face the crisis.
We are currently exploring measures to reactivate the sectors of the economy that are not too risky to citizens’ health, but we are also aware that from now on and to guarantee a responsible economic recovery, the country’s productive apparatus must coexist with the virus.

Q. Which measures are being implemented to support SMEs’ recovery from the Covid-19?

The measures to support micro, small and medium businesses have been generally designed and focused on temporary reliefs for the payment of taxes. This measure will help MSMEs to have the liquidity needed – for example – for expenses like those related to employees’ contracts. Likewise, the National Guarantee Fund has been strengthened to provide resources and guarantees for traditional banking so that they can offer SMEs banking products with favourable conditions to overcome this time of crisis, and thus avoid their closure, although inevitably in many cases the very informal conditions of these companies have driven their closure.

Q. Projects or initiatives you are working on and that could be of inspiration for peer organizations around the world.

Given the restrictions due to the Covid-19, companies met several difficulties. One of these is related to the fact that they are in the position to not being able to sell their products. To meet this challenge, Propais has designed and created an online platform to facilitate commercial exchange and automatic trade between the selling companies and the buyers, with the possibility of creating alliances and productive chains between sellers to satisfy the requests that individually cannot be fulfilled.
Furthermore, through the programme “Buy Colombian” we have promoted economic recovery by carrying out an awareness campaign aimed at promoting local entrepreneurs. This is a concrete support to the wide community of micro-enterprises that represents 97% of the business nationwide.
By taking the current situation into account, according to Propais one of the most relevant elements to be considered is the need to develop tools to facilitate e-commerce and enable the establishment of partnerships and collaborations among the different local actors.

Source: The International Network for SMEs - INSME

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