ASABA/Nigeria: No fewer than 1,818 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) have benefited from Federal Government and the World Bank COVID-19 Action Recovery Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES) in Delta.
Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa addressed the beneficiaries at the launch of funds disbursement in Asaba on Wednesday.
He commended the federal government and the World Bank for the partnership to provide succour for those affected by the pandemic in the country.
He said that now that the scheme had been domesticated in the state, the beneficiaries were in the first phase of the programme.
Okowa also lauded the Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF) for supporting the federal government to ensure that the programme was approved by the World Bank for implementation in Nigeria.
He also thanked the World Bank for the intervention and for working with state governments in the country towards cushioning the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the people, particularly the poor and vulnerable.
According to Okowa, today’s ceremony is a major step at putting MSMEs that are badly hurt by the pandemic on the path of recovery and growth.
He said this was “more so, with the disbursement of funds to the first set of 1,818 beneficiaries who have met the World Bank stipulated eligibility criteria within the initial six months.
“A total of 2,529 MSMEs are expected to receive grants to support post-COVID-19 loans, operational costs and to enhance their IT capabilities.
“Indeed, we are glad to be part of the CARES programme of the Federal Government.
“The focus of intervention clearly aligns with the priority of the state government to give relief to those whose lives, businesses, jobs and means of livelihood have been distorted by the pandemic.
“The programme, which we have domesticated as the DELTA CARES, is a two-year emergency recovery programme.
“It is aimed at supporting state governments’ budgeted programme of expenditures and interventions.
“It is to enable them to expand access to livelihood support, food security services, and grants for poor and vulnerable households and firms,” he said.
He said that the programme would also directly support 25,269 poor and vulnerable households with social transfers, basic services and livelihood grants.
The governor said it would as well support 13,976 farmers to boost food production and ensure smooth functioning of the food supply chain.
“The outlined figures are the targets stipulated by the World Bank, but do not preclude the State Government from scaling up if the need arises.
“It is my expectation that those charged with the implementation of DELTA-CARES will be faithful in executing the mandate so that the desired results are achieved, bearing in mind that it is a Programme for Result (PforR),” Okowa said.
On his part, Dr Barry Pere-Gbe, Chairman, Steering Committee for Delta-CARES and State Commissioner for Economic Planning, commended Okowa for providing the funds for the programme.
Pere-Gbe was represented by the Commissioner for Youths Development, Mr Ifeanyi Egwunyenga.
He said that the main focus of the programme was to bring succour to residents whose means of livelihood had been disrupted by the impacts of COVID-19.
He said that the programme was hinged on three thematic area:
“Support for poor and vulnerable households with grants and basic services.
“To farmers with farm inputs to increase food production and facilitate smooth functioning of the food supply chain.
“Also grants to MSMEs to support post COVID-19 loans, operational costs and to enhance their IT capabilities.”
Also, the Managing Director, Bank of Industry (BOI), Mr Olukayode Pitan, expressed delight at Delta State’s continued passion to grow and develop industries and MSMEs in the state.
He said that the NG-CARES was a partnership with the World Bank targeted at impacting vulnerable individuals and provide food security after the devastation of COVID-19.
Pitan particularly commended Delta for being the first state to launch the NG-CARES programme in the country and urged other states to emulate the example.
He said that BOI remained committed to empowering and supporting the growth of MSMEs with single digit interest loans and moratorium where necessary.
He disclosed that the bank had disbursed 772 million dollars to 3.8 million persons in the country in the last five years.
“Thirty out of the 36 states have agreed to work with BOI to implement the programme.
“We hope that other states will learn from Delta by fast-tracking NG-CARES in the country,” he added.
Mrs Orezi Esievo, the Executive Secretary, Delta State Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency, said that domesticated Delta-CARES programme was a business grant given as working capital to existing MSMEs.
She said it was meant to keep them afloat and boost their businesses.