MORE than 200 small grants were, on Wednesday, distributed to Region Two residents to either start a business or expand their existing business as government looks to reinvigorate life into the region’s business sector which, like other parts of the country, is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The distribution of grants valued at $250,000 each, is an injection of more than $50 million into the Region Two economy and is part of government’s plan to secure and sustain the livelihoods of small business operators by providing them with an opportunity to grow.
Speaking to a well-attended gathering at the Rice Producers Association (RPA) bond in Anna Regina, Vice-President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo said the grant must not be seen as free money to spend wildly but must be put to good use.
“We are hoping that people can grow if they start a small business and they can grow and employ others in growing the business.
“Now the grants that we are giving you here today is to ensure that you have that start and this is not money that we are giving you for free, we are going to follow up to see that you are doing something with it… the last thing we want to do is to give people money and they do not even make an effort to start the business they said that they will start,” said the Vice-President.
He acknowledged that while all the businesses might not succeed because of the state of the environment caused by COVID-19 and poor policies of the former APNU+AFC government, the current government wants to see everyone who received the grant make a start and go the distance to succeed.
PUT TO GOOD USE
Many of the residents who benefitted from the grant praised the government for the kind gesture and assured the Vice-President that they will put it to good use.
Among them was Irvin McLennan, a cattle farmer and grocery shop operator, who said the money will be used to secure his animals. Some of it will also be invested in his small shop, he told the Guyana Chronicle.
Cromwell Mentis of Queenstown also expressed gratitude for the grant and appealed to government to fix the farm-to-market road in his community, a call that received a positive response from Dr Jagdeo.
The distribution of the small business grants followed Tuesday’s signing of contracts by some 2,000 persons from the region to obtain part-time employment at government offices and agencies.
Instead of making available the 800 part-time jobs announced by the Vice-President on his previous visit to the region, the government decided to increase the number to 2,000 following a flood of applications from residents. Persons employed will receive $40,000 per month for 10 days of work. Through this programme, the government will pump around $1 billion into the economy of Region Two.
SUPPLEMENTING HOUSEHOLD INCOME
The part-time job scheme and the small grant initiative are geared at supplementing the household income of persons who have been severely affected by the rising cost of living due to COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
Both of these were promises by Dr Jagdeo, who came personally to the region to deliver on them.
He also informed Essequibo residents that the region will get a modern $30 million hospital, eight-10 megawatts of solar power to minimise blackouts, will benefit from improved water distribution systems, dredging of the Pomeroon River and an improved road network.
Farmers have already benefitted from free fertilisers and the cereal factory at Anna Regina was recently operationalised.
The government, he said, is working to make Essequibo more investor-friendly.
“In the budget, there are several initiatives this year. Some of the initiatives are to make Essequibo more attractive to investors, for example, we will co-invest in factories here. Right now, we are looking at about two or three call centres that could employ close to 1,000 people on the coast.
“The government will build the factory shells and train the people and then the investors will just operate this and this is just the beginning to generate more jobs on the coast,” he told hundreds of residents at a community meeting at the Suddie Early Childhood Centre on Tuesday.