SME Bank, the Kingdom’s newest bank with an initial capital of $100 million to provide financing for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME), is expected to launch soon, a senior official said on Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference, Ministry of Economy and Financespokesman Meas Soksensan said SME Bank will officially launch operations soon.

“We are waiting for a licence from the National Bank of Cambodia and we will launch it soon. It aims to provide financial assistance to local SMEs with low-interest loans,” Soksensan said.

Last month, Prime Mister Hun Sen urged the Ministry of Economy and Finance to speed up work on SME Bank.

Federation of Association for Small and Medium Enterprises of Cambodia president Te Taing Por said the fund is very important because a lot of SMEs have limited access to finance.

“It will make it easier for SMEs seeking financial loans with low interest. We are thankful the government is helping SMEs,” he said

An International Finance Corporation report released in August said Cambodia’s women entrepreneurs continue to struggle with limited access to finance for business expansion. Only three per cent have access to credit from microfinance institutions and banks.

The report estimated that the unmet demand for credit from women entrepreneurs is $4.2 billion – equivalent to almost 63 per cent of Cambodia’s $6.7 billion national budget for 2019.

A survey by the Ministry of Industry of 71 enterprises in the Kingdom found they needed assistance in market research, service development, packaging, technology adoption, human resources, access to labour, access to finance, business registration, taxation and improving hygiene standards.

The government is also allocating $50 million to support small- and medium-sized enterprises in the agricultural sector. The funds can be accessed in the form of low-interest loans through the state-owned Rural Development Bank.

The initiative was revealed in February by Hun Sen, who said the goal is to increase the production capacity of local companies and make them more competitive on the international market.