Small business owners throughout the country can look forward to some much-needed assistance as Government has announced an increase in allocation to them by $1 million.
This was disclosed during Government’s weekly post-Cabinet Press Briefing held by Minister with responsibility for Economic, Trade, Planning and Cooperatives, Oliver Joseph.
According to the senior government minister, the programme which was started by the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell regime following the February 19, 2013 General Election would be increased to $2 million.
The small business loan is available through the state-run Grenada Development Bank (GDB) with a 6% interest rate.
Minister Joseph told reporters that there is a great demand for small business loans in Grenada, which propelled Cabinet to increase the amount available to these people.
He said the loan portfolio entrusted to GDB is performing well with a lot of people benefiting from the programme. Over the years, schemes was initiated by government ran into difficulties with beneficiaries not being tardy in the repayments of loans.
Government insiders told this newspaper that millions remain outstanding in a scheme that was initiated during the 2003-08 period of a previous Mitchell government for the benefit of fishermen in the country.
Apart from the increase in allocation for the small businesses loan portfolio, Minister Joseph announced an increase in the allocation for special projects (community related projects) and Government’s needy assistance programme.
He said that $1 million was allocated for this particular area, however more than 50% of the budgeted amount has already been utilised prompting government to increase the amount to supply the high demand for assistance.
He added that vulnerable Grenadians have been requesting assistance for graduation fees, registration fees, medical assistance and other basic food items and the increase in allocation for those programmes are geared at meeting those needs.
Government has also doubled the amount of monies allocated to the Housing Repair Programme.
According to Minister Joseph, this was done in order to assist more people throughout the country to repair, expand or construct their homes before the rainy season starts through what he termed “a reasonable” small loan.
On the distribution of the housing units constructed by the Government of the People’s Republic of China PRC), the senior government minister said the Mitchell administration has agreed on guidelines for the distribution.
He indicated that a committee would be set up to review all applications received and the Soubise Housing Project in St. Andrew’s would be the first to see unit being distributed.
He said that work is still ongoing at the units at Mt Rush and these will be distributed soon after the work is completed.
Minister Joseph disclosed that all the houses would be distributed before the end of this year.
He said the need for housing throughout the country is great with more than 3000 applications received for the 351 Chinese housing units.
He admitted that government is concerned over its inability to make the required payments to local businesses for supplies and products received and services and contributions to institutions such as the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and local commercial banks.
The minister stated that the 18-month old administration is attempting to correct this by utilising some of the US$21.7 Million to be disbursed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to pay local suppliers.
Minister Joseph said the Mitchell administration has paid some $7 million to local debtors within the first-half of its year in office, an average of $1.2 million per month.
According to the minister, the intention of the government is to make payments of approximately $2.5 to $3 million per month.
The unpaid claims in the Treasury now stands at $100 million of which the bulk is owed to small local businesses.