The events that transpired during the course of the last year or more had an unparalleled negative impact on enterprise and small business owners in Lebanon, their income, standard of living, and most importantly their financial sustainability and stability. More to the point, individuals who were once significantly vulnerable, became increasingly more prone to suffer from the consequences of socio-economic developments from the last quarter of 2019 to date.
Providing financial support to clients in need of financing to grow their businesses and thus improve their standards of living is an essential component of Vitas’ mission. For this reason and as a direct response to the aforementioned dilemma, the LIFE initiative was created in partnership with USAID funded program LIFE (The Livelihoods and Inclusive Finance Expansion) and Saradar Bank. The objective of this initiative is to offer financial support to Vitas clients by providing the LIFE subsidy grant and allowing them to repay partially or totally subsequent late bills.
These clients were to be selected based on the criteria defined in the “Target Segments” section in the program scope, which were as follows:
- Entrepreneurs and low-income individuals with emphasis on women and youth
- A maximum beneficiary’s income of USD /3,000/
- Good repayment history up to September 2019.
A list of borrowers was compiled after a thorough portfolio analysis exercise aimed at selecting clients in abidance with the eligibility criteria initially set in the grant agreement. Resulting beneficiaries were considered excellent repayors with a positive repayment history up until the challenges faced due to the severe financial crisis, October 2019 protests and the brutal socio-economic shock of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Selected clients were then contacted by an assigned Vitas team to explain the objectives of the initiative.
The initiative had an undeniable socio-economic impact on vulnerable segments of the population, as it enabled clients to retrieve some form of financial normalcy in a collapsing economic environment that is threatening the livelihoods, incomes and sustainability of the most vulnerable business owners. Beneficiaries were positively surprised by this initiative and expressed their gratitude, as this subsidy was crucial in these times of financial hardship and allowed them to take a breath and catch up on their accumulated financial commitments.
In fact, Vitas clients were motivated to continue the payment of their instalments despite the difficult financial burden caused by the financial crisis and the lockdown in the country. The trigger of motivation was the abovementioned intervention that encouraged and helped Vitas clients to settle their bills and provided them with a lifeline that gave them some room to manoeuvre, and a chance to sort out their financial situation.
Since the inception of the initiative and the collaboration with the LIFE project, Saradar Bank and Vitas Lebanon managed to support a total of 3553 unique beneficiaries (with an emphasis on women and young entrepreneurs), with an approximate total amount of $500,000.
Client Firas Harb, West Bekaa expressed deepest gratitude and thank USAID and Vitas for its support, through the LIFE-Saradar initiative, as this gesture confirmed Vitas’ commitment to its mission statement and through supporting its clients, especially through the hard times they are passing through
Client Suzan Yaktine, Zahle, Bekaa thanked USAID, the LIFE-Saradar program and Vitas for this gesture and indicated that these types of initiatives that are directed towards supporting clients in times of need are exactly why Vitas’ reputation stands out from its competition, particularly by being credible and trustworthy.
Client Ali Youssef Mansour: “I have been a client of Vitas for many years, and even during the current economic crisis and COVID 19 pandemic, the staff members’ treatment remained up to the highest standards, especially regarding consideration to our situation and inability to repay our bills due to recent developments. I would like to express my gratitude towards VITAS and the LIFE-Saradarinitiative for their assistance during these harsh times.
Client Zeinab Hanadi Kamar: “I’ve been a loyal client of Vitas since 2017, and I have always received swift and quality service from its staff members that have exhibited the highest degree of respect towards me. I would like to thank Vitas, and in turn the LIFE-Saradar initiative for standing beside me during this difficult period”
Client Aida Mahmoud Kleit: I would like to express my appreciation towards Vitas and the LIFE-Saradar initiative, for understanding what we have been going through during this period, in particular regarding the COVID pandemic, quarantine requirements and overall economic situation. I would like to thank Vitas, its employees and the LIFE-Saradar initiative for the support they provided and the trust they have shown me.
Client Mira Ali AL Zein: As a Vitas client, I have been accustomed to the professional treatment of the company and its staff, in particular during the COVID 19 pandemic and the economic developments surrounding the country. I would like to express my appreciation towards Vitas and the LIFE-Saradarinitiative for their consideration and precious help.