BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, DECEMBER 8TH, 2016 (PRESS SEC) — Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris announced yesterday, Wednesday, December 7th, 2016, in the National Assembly that, for the second consecutive year, there will be no new taxes as part of the Budget proposals for 2017.

“The main focus of this Budget is therefore to accelerate growth, create the enabling environment for businesses to develop and thrive, generate jobs, and implement policies that would improve the lives of our people,” Dr. Harris, the Minister of Finance, said.

In working to improve people’s lives:

– Over the next two to three years, the National Housing Corporation (NHC) will invest more than $50 million to build affordable homes for low-income families across St. Kitts. “This programme will start in earnest in the first half of 2017,” Prime Minister Harris said yesterday, adding that a similar housing programme will be initiated in Nevis.

– The Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis will raise an additional $30 million to expand the Fresh Start loan programme for Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs). Since September 2015 more than 240 businesses have benefited from concessionary funding at a 5% rate of interest, as well as technical assistance, to either start or expand operations under the initial approximately $16-million Fresh Start programme. “This, Mr. Speaker, is one of the flagship programmes initiated by my Team Unity Government to advance the Prosperity Agenda and ensure a fair share for all,” the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis said during his Budget Address.

“Access to low-cost financing has long been identified as the number one hindrance to the development of micro and small businesses here in the Federation. This is evidenced by the fact that many of the successful applicants to the Fresh Start programme would, today, find it difficult to qualify for business loans at the commercial banks. When we look across the list of beneficiaries, we note that it is the ordinary people who are being helped,” Dr. Harris added, also noting that his Team Unity Government has set aside $5.4 million to support St. Kitts and Nevis’ participation in a Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme for the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) member states.

The World Bank and the ECCU are in the process of developing the Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme, to increase access to financing for people who want to start or expand MSMEs. “The primary objective of the scheme is to strengthen the financial system in the ECCU by providing credit risk mitigation to participating financial institutions, in order to increase the ability of MSMEs to access loans, and absorbing a portion of the losses incurred by financial institutions in cases of default on payments,” Prime Minister Harris said in his Budget Address.

In alignment with one of the Team Unity Government’s credos, A Nation’s Health is a Nation’s Wealth, the Honourable Prime Minister also said that his administration remains committed – and is working assiduously – to fulfill its promise to implement Universal Health Insurance Coverage within its first term.

The Budget Session continues today, Thursday, December 8th, 2016, in the National Assembly.