The inaugural Promotion of Youth Microenterprises (PYRME) grants were awarded last week Tuesday. Some 81 persons spanning over 50 villages across St. Vincent and the Grenadines received financial support for their businesses. Persons were granted capital investments ranging from XCD2500 up to XCD40, 000 the maximum allowed under the programme.

According to the programme’s mastermind, Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves, the first batch of grantees “represents the talents, skills and drive of Vincentian people.” As such an eclectic mix of men and women across a multiplicity of industries were given the opportunity to see their business concepts blossom to the tune of XCD600K.

At the symbolic (PRYME) endorsement ceremony in Kingstown on Tuesday, where 11 recipients – chosen to represent the first batch due to physical distancing protocols – were given certificates, Minister Gonsalves noted that transforming the local socio-economic landscape was a major plank in his government’s 2020 developmental thrust. He committed the available resources to “accelerating the transformation through developing entrepreneurship.” This grant programme, he noted would go a long way towards unlocking the entrepreneurial drive of Vincentians 18 to 40 years old; particularly since the Vincentian economy does not yet boast a venture capitalist styled “model like international markets. The government recognized this, so we came up with PRYME.”

The investment scheme, when first proposed at this year’s national budget debate, was estimated to cost the nation’s coffers some XCD2M but with the advent of COVID-19 additional XCD2.85M was “repurposed” as the government chose to “double down on the project” instead of eliminating it.

“The PRYME programme fully intends to exhaust the $4.85 million that the government has granted them this year which means that for every month between now and the end of the year, we’re going to be giving out again another 600,000 plus dollars on average,” Finance Minister Gonsalves said. Once granted, these monies are not to be repaid, as they are not treated as loans by the government, the Minister also noted.

While PRYME is intended to reach young adults up to age 40 with a total of XCD3M in grant financing. Promoting Your Microenterprises Plus (PRYME+) is for persons over 40 and some XCD1.5M is available to be disbursed as grants. The element which covers Culture and the Creative industries has some XCD350K available for any age group from 18 up. Each grant has a minimum of XCD2500 and a maximum of XCD40, 000 per applicant. Access to any tier of the programme is possible through an application form available at the Centre for Enterprise Development and would soon be deployed online.

In his address to the ceremony, Anthony Regisford, Chair of the PRYME steering committee, highlighted the important role that microenterprises play in the local economy. He also pointed to the fact that successful applicants would not only be drawn from “the productive industries.” We caught up with Chairman Regisford for a clearer appreciation of that point.

He said, “While we like to see applications coming from the productive sector, all business sectors are given consideration. Productive sectors are things like manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, tourism, agro processing, ICT, Creative Industry while non-productive industries deal mainly with wholesale and retail merchants. The service sector is also not excluded.” He also stressed that priority areas may include, “Productive sectors as mentioned and services. Wholesale and retail is not a priority area but it is not excluded.”

As to the disbursement schedule of the monies allotted to the PRYME programme, he told us that the proposed 600K to be awarded monthly “is just a monthly average. It will not necessarily work so. That figure came about from dividing the total grant money available by the number of months left in the year. We will be doing monthly batches. We do not give all cash. We buy the equipment for you.”

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves encouraged the recipients to use the monies wisely as the opportunities being enabled by this financing strategy could be later exploited if proper banking relationships are fostered and maintained.

Petrus Gumbs and Travis Lynch, 2 persons in Tuesday’s first batch, received the maximum XCD40, 000 allowed under PRYME.

JP.Schwmon.Vincy@Gmail.Com