A LENDING program for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) has released P179.7 billion in loans and supported 2.66 million jobs since it began in 2003, the trade department said.

Regional Director Asteria Caberte, in last Monday’s Philippine Economic Briefing in Cebu City, said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has also facilitated P9.57 billion in investments, generating US$463.36 million, through its One Town, One Product (OTOP) program.

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Accomplishments under its SME Unified Lending Opportunities for National Growth (Sulong) and OTOP highlighted the DTI’s presentation. It said OTOP has provided micro-entrepreneurs with credit, technology and marketing support, and generated domestic sales of up to P11.916 billion.

To further support entrepreneurs, Acting Director-General Augusto Santos of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said during the open forum that he will bring up in the next Cabinet meeting the local business sector’s request to cut red tape in getting government permits.

Participants of the local briefing, probably the last one for the Arroyo administration, were told of a 7.9 percent annual average growth in exports and 37 percent annual investment growth, from 2001 to 2009. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term began in January 2001, after the ouster of Joseph Estrada, and was extended in the presidential election of 2004.

Saving grace

The DTI said that while an international financial and economic crisis threatened the economy, one of its drivers, the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, still provided 70,000 new jobs in 2009 and $7.3 billion in revenues. She described ICT services as the regional economy’s saving grace, aside from tourism, during the crisis.

“We will focus our work on the five I’s: infrastructure, investments, innovations, intellectual capital and information flows,” Caberte said.

The event, attended by representatives of different business sectors, was a platform for government agencies to discuss their economic reforms over the last nine years.

Among the programs she discussed was the National Economic Research and Business Assistance Center, which serves as a one-stop shop for business licenses, registrations and permits.

The department, Caberte said, also has intensified price monitoring in the wet markets, published guide prices and strictly enforced Fair Trade Laws.

As a sign of their clients’ trust, the DTI has been identified by the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission as one of the top five agencies in terms of complying with the fight against corruption. (RBF)