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2011.11.11 PFJ partners Mercy Corps and Kesennuma Shinkin to reinforce financial access for Tsunami-affected small businesses

2011.11.11

PlaNet Finance Japan, Mercy Corps, Shinkin Central Bank and Kesennuma Shinkin today announced a groundbreaking global partnership to reinforce financial access of the micro, small and medium Enterprises (MSMEs) that are affected by the March, 2011 Great East Earthquake and Tsunami. The partnership, named as “Sanriku Tomodachi Fund for Economic Recovery”, will provide financial access to MSMEs for the reconstruction of their businesses in the severely impacted Sanriku area (Kesennuma, Minami-Sanriku in Miyagi and Rikuzen-Takada, Ofunato in Iwate).

The Fund was established by the generous grant of USD 2 million from Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian aid organization specializing in emergency response and economic development in over 40 countries, with a contribution from World Vision America. PlaNet Finance Japan, affiliated with the international organization, PlaNet Finance Group, specialized in development of Microfinance sector for poverty alleviation, have designed the structure of the project and will manage the implementation of the Fund in close collaboration with Kesennuma Shinkin, a leading local cooperative based in Kesennuma. The partnership was brought together by the strong support from Shinkin Central Bank, the central bank for the cooperatives in Japan.

The Fund will provide grants and subsidies that are critical to the recovery of the MSMEs with less than 20 employees before the Tsunami. It will offer;

- Grant for reemployment of MSMEs’ staff which were affected by Tsunami and were forced to dismiss their employees. The grant will create and support minimum of 50 jobs by providing one-year long employment subsidy.

- Grant to start up new enterprises reflecting newly emerged local demand for various services, including elder and child care, value chain reconstruction or delivery services for temporary housing units. The start-up fund will support 20-25 local entrepreneurs.

- Interest subsidy for new loan product for tsunami reconstruction that provide long term capital to rebuild the facilities and buildings lost by tsunami with free interest for 2 years. The total portfolio size will be about JPY 800 million (approximately USD 10 million) providing financial assistance to more than 80 enterprises.

“We call for a global solidarity to support Japan’s recover from the earthquake through ensuring and expanding employment”, said Jacques Attali, the President and founder of PlaNet Finance, formerly the special advisor of the president of France, during his speech at Paris Chamber of Commerce in France on March 23rd, 2011. This speech led PlaNet Finance Japan to seek for the approach to support the economic rebuilding of the Tsunami affected area.

“This partnership will bring together the expertise of each partners to tackle the complex issues in economic recovery of the area. For Mercy Corps, it is disaster response, for PlaNet Finance, it is the promotion of micro-entrepreneurship and small businesses and for Kesennuma Shinkin, it is the deep insight and knowledge of local market and businesses of the area” says Randy Martin, Director of East Asia Operation at Mercy Corps. For the Portland, Oregon-based Mercy Corps, the partnership also means solidarity between the coastal region which share the Pacific Ocean.

“The Tsunami affected MSMEs are facing tremendous difficulties in reconstructing their businesses” says Shigeru Sugawara, President of Kesennuma Shinkin. “Kesennuma Shinkin itself was a victim of the Tsunami, losing two-third of its branches and few staffs. We decided to take part in this global partnership because the recovery of small business is vital for rebuilding of our community. As a local cooperative, we will do our best for the revival of their business”. Kesennuma Shinkin will provide local knowledge and network for the fund. Loan officers, who deeply understand the local market and businesses characteristic of the area, will closely communicate with business owners of the MSMEs on promotion, selection, monitoring and support of the grantees.

In addition to the Fund, PlaNet Finance Japan will launch an online platform “SKETT (Supports’ market for Tohoku) with support from Mitsubishi Corporation to provide hands-on business development service (BDS) for Tsunami affected MSMEs. SKETT conducts online matching between the pro-bono experts who wish to support Tsunami victims voluntary and the Tsunami affected MSMEs that are in need of specific know-how in rebuilding their businesses such as development of business plan, marketing support and restoration of financial and legal documents lost by the Tsunami. The BDS demand will be posted on the website to call on the potential pro-bono volunteers who wish to go on the field to support the enterprises.

About PlaNet Finance Japan: PlaNet Finance Japan is the non-profit organization in Japan affiliated with PlaNet Finance Group, which conducts awareness raising, project development and implementation to promote the development of micro-entrepreneurs and microfinance sector. PlaNet Finance Group fights poverty by improving access to financial services through the development of microfinance. Headquartered in France, the group is active in 80 countries worldwide. PlaNet Finance Japan is supporting the relief and rehabilitation of Great East Japan Earthquake through global network. For more information, visit the website.
www.planetfinance.or.jp/en/
www.planetfinancegroup.org

About Kesennuma Shinkin: Kesennuma Shinkin Bank is a cooperative bank established in 1926 to serve the enterprises in the local market, including Kesennuma, Minami-Sanriku, Rikuzentakada, and Ofunato. It has been serving for small and medium enterprises in the area through provision of loans, deposits and other financial services. The bank had significant damage by the Tsunami that 8 out of 12 branches including its headquarter were forced to suspend the operation. Currently, the bank actively supports its severely damaged clients and involved in the efforts in recovering the local economy.

About Shinkin Central Bank: Shinkin Central Bank is the central bank of the 271 credit unions and 7,000 branches scattered all over Japan, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. It provides a variety of support to the cooperative credit unions as well as engaged in a wide range of financial services such as loans and financial. The bank actively supports the efforts of the credit unions for the economic recovery and revival of the damaged area in Tohoku. www.shinkin-central-bank.jp/index_e.html

About Mercy Corps: Mercy Corps helps people turn the crises they confront into the opportunities they deserve. Driven by local needs, our programs provide communities in the world’s toughest places with the tools and support they need to transform their own lives. Our worldwide team in 41 countries is improving the lives of 19 million people. For more information, see the website www.mercycorps.org.


Press Release
Mercy Corps, PlaNet Finance Japan and Kesennuma Shinkin partner to support Tsunami-affected small businesses, 11/11/2011

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