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Supporting small businesses along tsunami-affected coast

Japan, November 10, 2011

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A microenterprise support program promoting financial access for small businesses was recently launched in the tsunami-affected areas of Japan. The partnership between Mercy Corps, PlaNet Finance and Kesennuma Shinkin bank, named “Kesen Tomodachi Fund for Economic Recovery,” will provide financial access to small businesses, promoting financial recovery, and the overall economic recovery of the severely impacted Kesen region of Japan.

The program will provide grants and subsidies to small- and medium-size businesses with less than 20 employees before the Tsunami. The three-pronged approach will provide one-year long employment subsidy for a minimum of 50 jobs, encourage up to 25 local start-ups, and provide free-interest subsidies to promote post-tsunami reconstruction.

The fund for this program was established by a $2M grant 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, which support micro-entrepreneurs and microfinance sector, will manage the fund in close collaboration with Kesennuma Shinkin, a leading local cooperative based in Kesennuma.

A veteran in post-disaster recovery work, Mercy Corps, has been active in supporting survivors of the earthquake providing emergency supplies and psychosocial care services to the affected children. Mercy Corps recognizes that rehabilitating small businesses will play key role in next few years for long term recovery of the community.

“This partnership will bring together the expertise of each partner 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 Mercy Corps, the partnership also means solidarity between the coastal region which share the Pacific Ocean.

“Many business owners face difficulties in financial access trapped by the existing debt and uncertainty of business prospect in the area,” says Daichi Hirose, Program Manager at PlaNet Finance Japan. “We have already seen some business owners in the area claimed defaults and closed down the business. We would like to stop that."