Okowa Says D-CARES mitigating eco impact of pandemic *Beneficiaries selected on merit -Barry-Gbe Insists

-By Albert OGRAKA (with additional govt house news bulletin):

Delta Governor and Vice-Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa on Friday said the state’s COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (D-CARES) Programme was to mitigate the adverse economic impact of the pandemic, particularly on the poor and vulnerable. 
This is just as the state Commissioner for Economic Planning, Dr Barry Pere-Gbe, reaffirms that beneficiaries drawn from poor and vulnerable households were selected on merit and not through political colouration or ethnic cleavages.

Governor Okowa disclosed this at the official flag-off of the implementation of activities under Result Areas 1 and 2 of the Delta COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (D-CARES) Programme held at the Events Centre, Asaba. 

While pledging his administration’s commitment towards implementation of all aspects of the D-CARES programme in the state for the overall benefit of the people, he disclosed that the programme, being a World Bank supported intervention with an objective of expanding access to livelihood support and food security services as well as grants for poor and vulnerable households and firms, the state government had to key in.

“As we all know, the COVID-19 exerted a huge toll on the economy with the attendant loss of income and means of livelihoods by thousands of people. 

“The CARES programme is to help mitigate the adverse economic impact of the pandemic, particularly on the poor and vulnerable. 

“On September 28, last year, we gave operational support grants to 1,818 Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) under the Result Area 3 component of the programme. 

“This administration is very committed to this programme because it complements and supports our various social intervention efforts.” 

He said through the initiative, the programme will directly support; 25,269 poor and vulnerable households with social transfers, basic services, and livelihood grants; 13,976 farmers to increase food production and facilitate smooth functioning of the food supply chain, while 2,529 MSEs will be given grants to support post-COVID-19 loans, operational costs and to enhance their IT capabilities. 

He advised the programme managers to continue to display high performance and accountability levels required for seamless execution. 

“The successful implementation of the programme in the state, especially given the wide scope of the intervention would go a long way in addressing some of the negative economic impacts of the pandemic on our people. 

While assuring that the State Government would continue to provide the necessary support and funding to ensure that the programme achieves its stated objectives, “it is indeed my hope that beneficiaries will make good use of the opportunity to grow their businesses, increase their income, and generally improve their living standard,” Okowa added. 

Earlier in his welcome remarks, Commissioner for Economic Planning, Dr Barry Pere-Gbe, said beneficiaries drawn from poor and vulnerable households were selected on merit and not through political colouration or ethnic cleavages and urged them to maximise the opportunity. 

He recalled that precisely on the 22nd of September, 2021, the Governor, flagged-off Result Area (3) of the COVID-19 Action Recovery Economic Stimulus (CARES) programme which led to the disbursement of N490 million-economic recovery grants to One Thousand, Eight Hundred and Eighteen(1,818) Micro and Small Scale businesses that were negatively affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

“For the sake of clarity and more importantly, for the benefit of those encountering the acronyms N-CARES and D-CARES for the very first time, permit me Ladies and Gentlemen to quickly throw some light. The Nigeria COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES) Program is a two-year World Bank-assisted initiative borne out of its need to support the efforts of State Governments in providing the much-needed assistance to cushion the economic effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the poor and vulnerable households. It is an emergency economic recovery programme designed to reinstate households, farmers, and SMEs and rural communities back to their states of being, through social transfer grants, the provision of basic micro projects to communities, the provision of livelihoodsupport grants, supporting of farmers to increase food production and facilitate smooth functioning of their food supply chains, the provision of agricultural inputs to mitigate food losses, upgrading of wet markets to allow for safe buying and selling of food produce, supporting SMEs to enhance IT capabilities, supporting businesses to reduce size of their business loans and operational cost, and the provision labour-intensive public works, for the purpose of creating employment opportunities.”

He further explained that “In order to ensure and guarantee full ownership, the Program is being domesticated at State levels using already existing social investment programmes delivery Platforms as stated in the programme development objectives (PDO) of the World Bank. This is what led to the creation of the Delta State COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (D-CARES) Program. The World Bank applied a performance-based funding instrument for programme. That is to say, States are expected to provide the funding and get reimbursed after verification by the World Bank.”

According to him, ”For ease of implementation, the programme is compartmentalized into three Result Areas, namely: 

❖ Result Area 1 which focuses on giving grants through social transfers to the aged, physically challenged, chronically ill, and urban poor men and women. It is also the result area that provides livelihood support grants tovulnerable households; the construction of micro-projects in communities, and lastly, the creation of jobs through labour-intensive public works scheme. 

❖ Result Area 2 deals with the provision of agricultural inputs to farmers, upgrading of wet markets to allow for safe buying and selling of food produce, increasing food security and safe functioning of food supply chains for poor households, provision of rural road infrastructure; and lastly

❖ Result Area 3 deals with support to SMEs by providing conditional grants to facilitate recovery, and enhancing of IT and operational capabilities of Small and Micro Enterprises.

He however noted that with the flag-off of Result Areas 1 & 2, Delta State would have implemented the CARES programme in its entirety. “While this ceremony brings together beneficiaries of Result Areas 1 & 2 for the official flag-off, it is important to remark that the delivery platforms had gone ahead to conclude all the pre-disbursement eligibility and selection criteria, and also initiated some disbursements as pilots to test the efficacy and effectiveness of Payment Service Providers’ (PSP) platforms. Truly, it is exciting to state that the Delivery Platforms have made progress.

“At this juncture, I wish to intimate us of the total number of persons that will benefit from this first phase of disbursement, that is a half-year disbursement plan from the one-year cycle:

Under Result Area 1:

DLI 1.1 – In six-months, a total sum of N144 million will be disbursed through cash transfers to 1,650 Aged, physically challenged, chronically ill, and the urban poor men and women;

DLI 1.2 – In six months, a total sum of N166 million will be spent on 655 Youthswho are engaged in labour-intensive public works across the twenty-five LGAs of the State;

DLI 1.3 – In six months, a total sum of N149 million will be disbursed to 968 beneficiaries of the Livelihood Support Grant Scheme;

DLI 1.4 – In six months, a total sum of N100 million will be spent on constructing micro-projects in ten communities across ten Local Government Areas with over 21,000 persons as target direct beneficiaries.

Under Result Area 2:

In six months, the FADAMA office under the supervision of Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources will spend a total sum of N400 million on DLI 2.1 (the provision of agricultural inputs and services) to farmers, DLI 2.2 – the construction of agricultural infrastructure such as access roads to farms, and DLI 2.3 for the on creation of Agricultural Assets for production and small-scale primary processing that will benefit a total of 3,639 farmers.

He revealed that a total sum of N1.1 billion was approved and released for the implementation of this 6-month workplan, and N1.4 billion has also been approved by the Delta State Executive Council for the implementation of the second-half of the programme this year.

“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me at this point underscore the fact that credible processes were followed in theselection of beneficiaries for this intervention. In line with the World Bank programme development objectives(PDO) beneficiaries were mined from the Social Register of the State. The State Social Register is a highly credible database containing 170,554 PVHHs, and 453,516 individuals (male 198,359, female 255,166) as at 31st July, 2022 generated from communities across the 25 LGAs of the State. This register was developed with funding support from the World Bank and the Federal Government of Nigeria. It is data pool and a universally accepted registry from which beneficiaries of pro-poor interventions by international organisations such as World Bank, United Nations, European Union etc are sourced. So I am bold to state here today that there was no ethno-political or nepotic consideration in the selection of beneficiaries of the CARES programme. “

Commissioner for Economic Planning, Dr Barry Pere-Gbe therefore, appreciated the contributions of the World Bank CARES Programme Task Team Leader, and other team players for their unwavering support that has continued to guarantee the successful implementation of the programme in Delta State. 

In their goodwill messages, stakeholders of the programme from the world bank and other agencies lauded Governor Okowa for keying into the programme and affirmed that it will help to alleviate poverty. 

Some of the beneficiaries including a physically challenged person thanked the Governor for giving them opportunity to benefit from the scheme emphasizing that their economic status has improved. 

Highight of the programme was the presentation of cheques and farm implements to some beneficiaries by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.

News Reporter
Blank NEWS Online founding Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Albert Eruorhe Ograka, is a Graduate of Mass Communication. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ).

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