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While businesses around the world are struggling to navigate the uncharted waters churned up by the Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, the ‘Emirates Publishers Emergency Fund’, launched in June by the Emirates Publishers Association, EPA, has positively impacted several local publishers who were hit by this unprecedented global crisis.

The selected beneficiaries of the AED 1 million stimulus have asserted that the fund, has been the difference between the existence and demise of several small- and medium-sized publishing outfits in the UAE. Till date, the Emergency Fund has made allocations worth AED 549,695 to 25 publishing houses across the UAE, who are now utilising the financial stimulus they have received to get their businesses back on track.

Salha Gabish, owner of Sadiqat Publishing and Distribution Books, said the fund is a unique initiative that highlights the continued efforts of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Founder and Honorary President of Emirates Publishers Association, EPA, to create a strong and sustainable publishing industry in the UAE. The fund also translates the EPA’s commitment to offer comprehensive and meaningful support to its members, he added.

“The publishing sector has incurred big losses this year due to the suspension of cultural events and book fairs, both regionally and globally. As a result, numerous publishers have been contemplating to either suspend operations temporarily or even close their businesses.. The Emergency Fund has come in at the right time to help these suffering businesses, contributing to their continuity as well as the advancement of local publishing industry despite the challenges posed COVID-19,” she further added, Talal Salem, Founder of Dar Jumeirah Publishing and Distribution, opined: “The Fund has had a positive impact on all its beneficiaries, both morally and materially, especially after the losses they suffered because greatly from the diminishing opportunities to do business due to the cancellation of key industry events. Publishers are facing unprecedented challenges, which need the kind of support that the EPA is offering to be able to overcome and look at a sustainable future for our businesses.”

“With its clear and ambitious vision for the local publishing sector, EPA has developed innovative initiatives like the Emergency Fund to support its members. The financial stimulus publishers have received has enabled them to clear their debts and payments they owed to different parties, offering us a clean slate to reorganise our priorities in a way that will meet new market demands and enable us to achieve sustainability,” he concluded.

Fatima Al Bloushi, owner of Nabati Publishing, said the fund reflected EPA’s genuine concern for and interest in sustaining the local publishing industry in the wake of the pandemic, noting that EPA’s generous financial support has helped businesses in the sector function without a hitch.

“Publishers in the UAE are able to continue operating their businesses even under such trying circumstances because of the unconditional support from the EPA, who plays a pivotal role in enabling the continued growth of the local publishing sector. In the past few months, our industry has faced an unprecedented challenge, forcing us to suspend some of our operations. The Emirates Publishers Emergency Fund came to our rescue just in time. This financial support has helped us focus completely on our business and look into crucial things like having backup plan to face up to unusual circumstances and challenges in future,” she added.

Commenting on the financial impact of the pandemic, Abdul Latif Juma, founder of Legal Guide For Publishing, said: “During the lockdown, we had several financial obligations including rent. We were doubly hampered because we could not collect our dues, which contributed to a soaring financial crisis that stretched from March to July.”

“However, EPA’s initiative has helped us honour our financial commitments and get back on track to become competitive again. I consider the fund a lifesaver; it’s played a crucial role to support publishers and their businesses. An initiative like this leaves a long-term impact by helping strengthen and advance the publishing and knowledge sector, which strengthen a nation’s foundation,” he added.

Mohammed Abdul Satar, representing Al Saada Publishing & Distribution, said: “We value very highly the contributions from the EPA fund, which gains additional importance during this trying period that caught us off guard and created a serious financial situation for many of us. The fund came in the nick of time to help businesses overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic that had brought our activities to a standstill.”

“Local publishers need a nurturing environment to survive in this business that plays a vital role in building and shaping the thoughts of generations. The advancement of the sector is an advancement of society. So, we cannot understate the role the fund plays in supporting not only the publishers, but society as a whole,” he concluded.