FOURTEENTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
TUESDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 2020
UNDP COVID-19 grant programme to assist MSMEs
Mr. Speaker, I wish to update this Honourable House on the launch of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) COVID-19 grant programme payments to assist Micro, Small and Medium sized Enterprises (MSMEs) specifically in the food services sector including restaurants, cafés and food vans.
On 14, September, 2020, I announced the award to 10 MSMEs from the UNDP grant that has been given in partnership with your Government.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the UNDP for partnering with us in providing economic stimulus to 10 small businesses in the Virgin Islands.
The Government is committed to a transparent and accountable process throughout the implementation of its COVID-19 economic relief policy initiatives. I will briefly go through the evaluation and selection process.
The Food Operators Grant Programme was launched on June 22nd, 2020 with the announcement of the application process. 31 food operators applied for the grant programme by the July 15th, 2020 deadline.
Eligible candidates were then determined based on the following criteria:
- Be classified as a MSME based on criteria set forth in the Government’s draft Business License Policy:
- Employing less than 20 employees
- Annual turnover less than $200,000
- Still in operation that it has not closed permanently;
- Possess a valid 2020 Trade License; and
- Operate as a stand-alone business for example not attached to a hotel.
2. Twenty one of the applicants met the eligibility requirements. Selection of business applicants for the grant was based on a scoring system using the following information extracted from the application form:
- Type of business ownership
- Level of compliance regarding meeting statutory fee obligations namely trade license fees, payroll tax obligations, social security fees and national health insurance fees
-The financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis measured by a decline in revenue before COVID-19 and now
- The level of decline in revenue was the major factor for determining selection of awardees. It accounted for 50% of the score. The 10 applicants with the highest score were chosen representing businesses with the greatest fall in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in the premature closure of the tourism industry and the lockdown of the internal economy in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus has had a fundamental negative impact on small businesses in particular those in the food service industry.
A Business Impact Survey conducted by the Government of the Virgin Islands in April 2020 revealed that the majority of bars and restaurants experienced a significant reduction in business activity – between 61% and 100%.
Additionally, most of the layoffs in the Territory during March and April, 2020, were experienced in the bars and restaurants sub-sector (approximately 64%).
Fast forward to September, 2020, these statistics have probably worsened as the economic activity in the Territory fluctuates with new pockets of the virus emerging.
As part of my Government’s commitment to the tourism sector and Micro, Small and Medium size Enterprises (MSMEs) we have partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to assist MSMEs in the food service industry.
This joint initiative which is part of UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean’s COVID-19 Response Programme is aimed at supplementing lost revenue, assisting in the retention of employees and stimulating economic recovery throughout the Territory.
The Food Operators Grant was to the tune of $40,000 providing assistance to 10 businesses.
Mr. Speaker, each qualifying business was awarded a cheque of $4,000 each this week to support operational expenditure.
The breakdown of the 10 businesses are as follows:
- Six (6) businesses on Tortola,
- Two (2) businesses on Anegada
- One (1) business on Virgin Gorda, and
- One (1) business on Jost Van Dyke
To break it down even further, of the 10 businesses selected 50 percent were female owned.
Additionally, the 10 businesses are inclusive of 5 restaurants, 3 food vans and 2 café/snackettes.
I am happy to announce that their checks were made available last week to support operational expenditure.
These funds will assist them in addressing some of the financial difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Speaker, I will not call the names of the business, but the awardees were contacted via email and telephone to provide them with additional information, including where and when the cheques can be collected. Special arrangements have been made to ensure that cheques can be collected if you are on the Sister Islands.
Each awardee will be required to sign a declaration form upon receipt of the cheque, which outlines their commitment, for example:
- to honour the intended purpose for the funds (meeting business operational expenditure);
- to participate in any surveys on accessing the programme;
- to participate in the financial management assistance/training being offered pro bono by two of the BVI's Accounting Firms - Deloitte and KPMG.
Mr. Speaker, your Government is devoted to building entrepreneurial skills. Therefore as part of the knowledge-based component of the programme, awardees will be receiving business management guidance by accounting and business development professionals in the BVI.
I would like to thank Deloitte and KPMG for their involvement in this important initiative.
We were very pleased with the rigorous process of the UNDP and we applied the same requirements to our small business grant programme.
I must say that Mr. Ugo Blanco the interim UNDP Resident Representative said to my Government:
And I Quote
“The UNDP is honored to partner with the Government of the British Virgin Islands in their pioneer initiative which supports MSMEs that have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Thanks to the leadership and proactiveness of the Premier’s Office and the Ministry of Finance, food operators in the BVI are now better equipped with the tools and resources needed to jumpstart their operations. This work showcases the commitment of the Government and will provide assistance to the most affected groups and allow them to adapt as quickly as possible to the new economic context.” – End of Quote
My Government is devoted to building entrepreneurial skills therefore as part of the knowledge-based component of the programme awardees will be receiving business management guidance by accounting and business development professionals in the BVI.
I would like again to thank Deloitte and KPMG for their involvement in this important initiative.
Indeed, we are in this together.