Jakarta (ANTARA) - The Industry Ministry has proposed soft loans for small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) to help them pay laid-off workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The loan interest would be lower than the micro loan interest rate," Director General of Small, Medium, and Multifarious Industries of the Industry Ministry Gati Wibawaningsih noted in a statement here on Saturday.

Since COVID-19 cases were firstly confirmed in the country in early March, small- and medium-scale businesses have registered a 50-70 percent decline in sales, Wibawaningsih remarked.

According to Wibawaningsih, the ministry had worked closely with online shops, including Tokopedia, Shopee, Blibli, and Buka Lapak, to help in marketing the products of SMEs.

Wibawaningsih pointed out that SMEs in the country were also reeling from the impacts of a scarcity of raw materials, particularly imported ones.

"Hence, the Industry Ministry has worked on cooperation with the domestic raw material industry to produce and supply raw materials for local SMEs," she stated.

The government has also issued a policy on postponing credit payment for SMEs in a bid to lessen the burden on businesses.

The ministry has recorded 43,016 SMEs impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The SMEs are located in various provinces, including South Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, Maluku, West Java, East Java, Lampung, and Banten.

Those SMEs have employed 149,858 workers, she remarked.

The ministry has also worked in coordination with related ministries to curtail the impact of the pandemic on the export of SMEs’ products, mostly handicraft items.

"We will coordinate with the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Indonesia's Industry Attaché in several countries. Our representatives abroad will negotiate for continuing the exports of SMEs products after the COVID-19 crisis can be brought under control," Wibawaningsih added. Related news: Rupiah strengthens as Chinese economy starts to recover
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Translator: Risbiani Fardaniah, Sri Haryat
Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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