Yenagoa - Gov. Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa on Tuesday announced that the state had set up a N250 million Trust Fund to support the development of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs).
Dickson also urged states and the Federal Government to accord SMEs a top priority to stimulate the national economy.
The governor said at the Bayelsa 2013 SME Summit in Yenagoa that SMEs represented the engine of economic growth of a nation.
He said it was regrettable that bayelsa had not fared well in the SME sector.
Dickson said the state must break new grounds and use SMEs to meet its basic needs and called on friends of the state and the oil companies working in the state to contribute to the fund.
Dickson had earlier received the representative of the Director-General of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Olawale Fasanya at Government House, Yenagoa.
The governor said the promotion of small businesses should not only be encouraged in Bayelsa but the country as whole to serve as a catalyst to stimulate the economy.
“I want to enjoin all of us to address the issue of promoting SMEs because that is the fastest way to fast track the growth of the economy.
“Here in this state, I want to assure you that the development of SMEs is a critical cornerstone of our restoration government because that is why we say we are broadening the base of our economy.
“We want people to come and do business here and we also have a duty to stimulate enterprise, bridge their finance needs and skill deficiencies,” he said.
Dickson said the major thrust of his administration was to improving small and medium scale enterprises to create wealth, employment and enhance skills as well as reduce the dependence on foreign products.
“Small and Medium Scale Enterprises are the way to go, particularly in an economy such as ours that is over-dependent on products that come from outside of our shores.
"So we are very passionate about this sector and I want this sector to blossom in Bayelsa so that we can create wealth, employment and generate skills.
“Going forward, this is one area that is going to form a major plank of our social investment policy,” the governor said
He attributed the delay in the disbursement of funds already made available for the sector to some logistics problems which the government was addressing to enable the people to participate actively and become stakeholders in the local economy.
Dickson expressed government’s willingness to explore the full range of the opportunities offered by SMEDAN and thanked the agency for taking special interest in the state to help expand its economic base.
In his remarks, the representative of the Director General of SMEDAN, Olawale Fasanya, said a recent survey conducted indicated that over 400 people were involved in SMEs in Bayelsa.
He said the agency had been mandated to collaborate with the state on ways SMEDAN could promote small businesses.
Fasanya also explained that the National Enterprise Development Programme under SMEDAN was expected to be launched soon by the president and Bayelsa had been selected as one of the pilot states.
According to him, the programme involves getting the state to nominate Business Development Service Volunteers to be trained to mentor the SMEs that have been identified in the state.
He said SMEDAN had trained 200 women in the state in the past under the Rural Women Development Programme.