The ‘Micro and Small Enterprise Development and Building Alternative Livelihoods for Vulnerable’ Project on Thursday closed off on a high note at the Herdmanston Lodge, Peter Rose Street, Queenstown, Georgetown, where it was disclosed that some 199 loans and 545 grants were handed out worth over $600 million.This was related by the Credit Guarantee Fund Manager, Gillian Edwards, during the closing ceremony of the programme. According to her, “We were able to do loans in eight of the 10 regions… so we did a total of 199 loans of a value of $695 million… for grants, our original target was 300 grants and because we shifted funds from the intro-subsidy which was largely unused for that. We exceeded our target and to date, because we are still disbursing some who just had part disbursement so far 545 grants to the value of $163 million.”Among the 100 programmes tied into the five-year project were training sessions with small business owners in the areas of business management, cosmetology and others.Persons from across the 10 administrative regions benefited from the US$5 million project, with aid from the American Development Bank and several banking entities in the country.A number of trainers, including Action Coach, also participated in giving their services to train persons in different areas.A few beneficiaries of not only training, but loans expressed how helpful it was to them. One woman who disclosed that she not only benefited from a loan, but the training programme in cosmetology, said, “I will say that I have benefited greatly from the programme because I got the grant which moved me from baking in a four burner oven to having an oven now that can hold 300 chickens at one time to bake”.A farmer shared that he now benefits from the loan in that he now produces about 4000 chickens when he used to only be able to grow 300 at a time.Meanwhile, Business Minister Dominic Gaskin explained how successful the project was although it was initially intended to be a two-year programme.“This project has come to define the work of the Small Business Bureau over the last few years and I know that it can boast thousands of beneficiaries within the micro and small business communities. It addresses some of the fundamental needs of those businesses such as the need for training and the need for financing and it also addresses one of the key objectives of our Ministry’s five-year strategic plan and that is to intensify the services of the Small Business Bureau,” Gaskin pointed out.Plans for growthThe Business Minister was keen to note that plans are in place to help move small businesses up the scale.According to him, one of the key initiatives Government is currently working on is the establishment of a system to monitor procurement of projects to these small businesses which will enable them to expand one way or the other.He said, “We have to have a system that allows regular reporting so that every quarter we can say to the public (that) this is the level of procurement from small businesses for this quarter so that involves being able to identify small businesses whenever they procure”.The Member of Parliament explained that the plans are to monitor the procurement of all Government projects at the Regional, National Procurement and Tender Administration Board or the Ministries’ level.Even as these plans were announced he made it clear that the government is still trying to “find a system” to gather all the data required for this project.It was explained by him that this process will be beneficial in that measures will be developed from the statistics gathered to give these said businesses a better chance of getting Government procurement.Among the principles already identified to govern this initiative will be the implementation of a “scoreboard” which will dictate that a specific percentage of projects will be allotted to small or large-scale businesses to create a level playing field for all.Although the project has not been given a deadline, Gaskin said he would like it to become a reality by the beginning of next year since it is “very urgent”.