Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 04, 2017 (SKNIS): The development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in St. Kitts and Nevis remains a focus for the government in 2017, as part of plans to continue to grow the local economy and empower nationals.
In his New Year’s Address, Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, said ‘that enterprise is the engine room of the economy” and the government has taken “an unprecedented step of committing structured financial resources to support micro and small businesses to the tune of EC$35.4 million.”
Just over EC$30 million will be accessible under the Fresh Start Programme, which was created in 2015. It offers concessionary loans to individuals to pursue business ventures or expand current operations and is administered by the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis. The initial funds of more than EC$13 million were provided by the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and officials received hundreds of loan applications for ventures in tourism, healthcare, food and entertainment, and many more. An additional EC$2.7 million was added in 2016 to allow more persons, who qualified for funding, to pursue their aspirations.
“It is crucial that we build resilience across the economy if we are to compete successfully against a backdrop of international changes and uncertainty, for example, the advent of Brexit, de-risking of banks, terrorism, and other emerging threats to our economy and our way of life here in the Federation,” Prime Minister Harris said.
Dr. Harris, who is also the Minister of Finance, highlighted that private institutions and organizations have an important role to play in addressing the aforementioned challenges and generating job and wealth creation opportunities. He called on commercial banks to “do more to provide financial resources at affordable rates.” The Chamber of Industry and Commerce was also mentioned in identifying potential export markets and providing the relevant support for local business to access such.
Strategies on business development and economic growth are expected to be discussed at a national consultation on growth and resilience to be convened in the first quarter of 2017, according to Prime Minister Harris.