Delta Governor, Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, on Wednesday lauded the Federal Government and the World Bank for partnering on COVID-19 Action Recovery Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES) to provide succour for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) impacted by the pandemic in the country.
The governor made the commendation in Asaba at the flag-off of disbursement of funds to 1,818 persons under CARES scheme, which has been domesticated in the state, and announced that the beneficiaries were in the first phase of the programme in Delta.
He commended 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 putting MSMEs that were badly hurt by the pandemic on the path of recovery and growth 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.
He said “a total of 2,529 MSMEs is 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 aimed at supporting state governments’ budgeted programme of expenditures and interventions to enable them expand access to livelihood support, food security services, and grants for poor and vulnerable households and firms.’’
He added that the programme would also directly support 25,269 poor and vulnerable households with social transfers, basic services and livelihood grants as well as 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 earnest 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),” the governor said.
The Chairman, Steering Committee for Delta-CARES and Commissioner for Economic Planning in the state, Dr Barry Pere-Gbe, commended Governor Okowa for providing the funds for the programme.
Represented by the Commissioner for Youths Development, Comrade Ifeanyi Egwunyenga, Pere-Gbe stated that the main focus of the programme was to bring succour to residents in the state whose means of livelihood had been disrupted by the impacts of COVID-19.
He said that the programme is hinged on three thematic areas, ranging from supporting 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, and grants to MSMES to support post COVID-19 loans, operational costs and to enhance their IT capabilities.
On his part, Managing Director of 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.
“MSMEs are a critical component of our national economy due to their prospects of job creation and contributions to the growth of the economy.
“We are strongly committed to providing operational and technical support for the programme in Delta because of the strong partnership the state government has shown,” he stated.
Earlier, Executive Secretary of Delta State Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency, Mrs Orezi Esievo, had said that Delta COVID-19 Action Recovery Economic Stimulus (Delta-CARES) programme was a business grant given as working capital to existing MSMEs to keep them afloat and boost their businesses.