QUETTA    -   Balochistan Acting Governor and Speaker Balochistan Assembly Mir Jan Muhammad Khan Jamali distributed Matching Grants worth PKR 27 million to uplift the business potential of 42 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at a ceremony organized by Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP). The beneficiary SMEs were based in Quetta, Pishin, Nushki, Kharan, Khuzdar, Lasbela, Panjgur, Kech, Zhob, and Musakhel. The distribution was held under the European Union (EU) funded Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP) project which was implemented by International Trade Centre (ITC) in partnership with Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) and Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), on Saturday. The size of the grant varies from PKR 0.5 to 2.5 million based on the business plans shared by the SMEs and robust evaluation carried out under the project.  While addressing the ceremony which coincided with 75th Independence Day celebrations of Pakistan.

, Mir Jan Muhammad Jamali said that Balochistan Government was committed to uplift the living standards of the people across the province. “The Provincial government believes that efforts that are aimed to contribute to this cause need to be encouraged at every level,” he added.

Jamali further said that the grants issued to beneficiaries under GRASP would play a pivotal role to promote agri-businesses and thus lead to overall socio-economic development of Balochistan. He appreciated the European Union for funding the GRASP project which was a unique initiative for sustainable rural development.

Nadir Gul Barech, PPAF COO, while talking about PPAF’s mission to serve the underserved regions of the country said, “I’m confident that GRASP project will be a game-changer as we work in 10 districts of Balochistan to enable market growth in the most vulnerable areas and generate employment opportunities for the poorest communities.” “I am grateful to EU and the ITC for investing in the region to improve the business environment and strengthen agricultural value chains in the target districts,” Mr Barech said and added further that it will improve access to finance for agri-based SMEs and boost the trend of entrepreneurship in the far-flung areas in Balochistan. Ms Roshan Khursheed Bharucha, Chairperson PPAF, termed GRASP a unique intervention and said that it would not only bring a positive change in the respective communities but also expected to usher in an era of broader development of the province through bringing revolution in the agriculture sector.

Mr Jahanzeb Khan GRASP Provincial Lead Balochistan highlighting the significance of GRASP project said that Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up the bulk of businesses in Pakistan. To achieve broad, sustainable economic growth, these firms must grow and create jobs for the increasing workforce.

 He further added that these Matching Grants are part of a strategic approach aimed to uplift the SMEs through gender mainstreaming, policy shift, access to finance, networking, capacity building and product improvement programs.

Mr Abdullah Khan, Secretary Planning and Development Balochistan, lauded EU and implementing partners including ITC, PPAF, and FAO, especially to establish and maintain excellent coordination with the government’s line departments during the implementation on the project. DG livestock Dr Kamran Akhter, Secretary Women Development Sikandar Shah, Director Environment Balochistan were also present on the occasion. Shortlisting of the grantees included partnership with the UN agencies, including UN-ITC and UN-FAO, and PPAF through leveraging upon their organisational resources to support the beneficiaries. Preference was given to progressive businesses which pitched innovative, smart, and competitive proposals. The project is governed by three steering committees: One at the national level led by the Government of Pakistan and two at the provincial level led by the governments of Balochistan and Sindh. Key stakeholders include producers, agricultural service providers, small and medium-sized enterprises, policy makers and consumers.