Government urged to address gaps in access to finance

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The government is urged to address the lack of access to finance and capacity-building programs as well as public-private sector coordination to enable women-led micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to benefit from cross-border e-commerce, according to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

In a PIDS policy note, foreign affairs research specialist Jovito Jose Katigbak, Philippine APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) Study Center Network project evaluation officer Jean Clarisse Carlos, and Philippine Competition Commission program officer Jill Angeli Bacasmas said that while women-led MSMEs have the potential to realize gains from taking part in cross-border e-commerce, there are challenges preventing their full participation.

The authors of the note titled “Diagnosing the Policy Environment for Women-Led MSMEs in Cross-Border E-Commerce Trade” said the primary challenge faced by women-led businesses is in terms of access to programs, infrastructure, financing, capacity building, and other opportunities.

“More specifically, women-led businesses have difficulties connecting to the internet, securing loans and funding for their operating costs and future expansions, processing information and procedures on cross-border trade, and participating in government-led programs,” the authors said.

As such, they said there is a need to address issues that substantially contribute to the low level of access to many services and programs.

With the two main barriers to access being the lack of understanding of government policies and programs as well as rampant informality among women-led MSMEs, the authors recommended stepping up efforts to educate these businesses.

The authors said many women-led e-commerce businesses were set up when COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions were imposed, which explains the low awareness on government programs supporting their internationalization through cross-border trade and their hesitancy to register and move to the formal sector.

“Concerned government agencies should intensify campaigns and projects seeking to assist women MSMEs move from the informal to the formal sector,” the authors said.

Furthermore, the authors said the government needs to help women-led MSMEs scale up and sustain their businesses.

“Mainstreaming access to these services and programs and enhancing coordination among stakeholders could help women MSMEs engage in cross-border trade,” the authors added.

As men and women face unique challenges, the authors said efforts to collect sex-disaggregated data should be strengthened to come up with targeted programs for women-led MSMEs engaged in cross-border e-commerce trade.

The authors said improved coordination within and across government agencies and with business organizations would also be necessary.

“Vibrant partnerships exist between and among government agencies, leading e-commerce platforms, women in business-centered associations or organizations, and fintech and other digital platforms,” they said.

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