COVID-19: Gov’t to ‘reboot’ small businesses, equip farmers to handle food crisis

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Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National COVID-19 Task Force, Joseph Harmon says the Government is examining ways to “reboot some small businesses” that have been severely affected by the measures implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Emergency measures by the Government resulted in many businesses shutting their doors because they were deemed to be non-essential. These measures were implemented April 3 until May 3 and there is a possibility it will be extended.

But Harmon, who is also the Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, said the Government wants to see small businesses continue their “production and manufacturing activities.”

“DG Harmon said the Government had classified the measures into short term and long-term actions. In the short term, he noted that those persons who are affected and deemed vulnerable will be looked after while in the medium term, the Government is looking to reboot some small businesses so that they can continue their production and manufacturing activities,” a release from the Ministry of the Ministry noted Saturday.

Harmon made the comments during a tour of the National Gymnasium, which will now serve as a storage facility for the stockpiling of materials for the Civil Defence Commission (CDC).

He said the Government is focused on implementing a multi-faceted approach to bring relief to citizens and which will target the vulnerable sections of society, including farmers, business owners and students.

Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Mr. Joseph Harmon is briefed by Director General of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Ltd Colonel Kester Craig during the site visit to the National Gymnasium [Photo: MOTP]
It was noted that the Ministry of Business will soon commence the coordination of small businesses to determine how best the Government can lend assistance to ensure they thrive and recover during and after this period while farmers will be equipped to prepare for a food crisis after COVID-19.

“We are also looking at a plan from the Ministry of Agriculture, which is called REAP [Regional Emergency Agricultural Project]. That has to do with re-energising small-scale agriculture and bringing people back to basics so they understand that after COVID, there is going to be a food crisis and we have to prepare our people from now.

“So, during this phase, we will be looking at how best we can help small farmers in so far as giving them seeds, equipment and agricultural extension services so that they can go back to the land. While we are assisting with hampers, we want to wean people off of that,” Harmon was quoted as saying in the press release.

He said the Government is determining the category of vulnerable persons.

“There are persons who might not have been vulnerable before COVID but because of the measures that we have introduced, it has caused them to be at home; they cannot work or feed their families so we have to consider that as a vulnerability.

“We are doing several things at the same time. We are looking at the traditional vulnerabilities, age, disability, et cetera, but then we are looking at persons who have been affected in terms of their businesses,” he said.

Meanwhile, it was noted that the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Telecommunications and other agencies, are working to ensure that public schools’ students can continue their education while the schools remain closed.

Harmon said the Government is cognisant of the fact that not every student has access to internet and is therefore working on practicable solutions.

“Then, as you know, some people are working from home and they are still being paid so the Ministry of Public Service is looking to see how best we can optimise that to ensure the Government is still efficiently managed,” he added.

 

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