THE CENTRAL BANK has teamed up with various institutions for a study on small businesses with a gender lens to look into boosting lending to the micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

The project will be carried out with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and with support from JPMorgan, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said in a statement on Tuesday.

The study will be a maiden national-level report on issues, challenges, and opportunities for businesses owned by women from a demand-side perspective. Its results are expected to be ready by the fourth quarter.

“When we support women’s access to finance, we enable the MSME sector to achieve its full potential as a driver of inclusive economic growth in the country,” BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said in the statement.

“The MSME Demand-Side Survey is thus an important initiative toward building a deeper understanding of the sector to support evidence-based policy making and provide valuable market insights for financial service providers to strategically serve the MSMEs,” he added.

The survey will also gauge key characteristics of small businesses, their access and use of financial products including digital ones, and the impact of COVID-19 on their operations.

“This survey represents an important step towards informing the path forward to not only increase access to financial services but also to ensure they are best meeting the needs of MSMEs and women across sectors and regions of the Philippines,” ADB senior finance specialist Kelly Hattel said.

To encourage lending to MSMEs, the central bank has also started a credit risk database project on the sector in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The BSP is likewise exploring collaborations on financing that will ease collateral requirements of MSMEs that belong to larger supply chains.

Data from the Department of Trade and Industry showed MSMEs make up about 99% or roughly one million of registered businesses in 2018. — L.W.T. Noble