The St.Kitts-Nevis Team Unity government is rolling out the new “FRESH START PROGRAMME” in keeping with a campaign promise to provide well-needed financial assistance to entrepreneurs seeking to open or expand their own small and medium size businesses (SMEs).
The “FRESH START PROJECT” Fund will be administered by the Development Bank, and the funds will be accessible by entrepreneurs who apply for a loan at the Development Bank from as early as next week. The maximum loan amount per applicant will be US$100,000.00 and the highest interest rate will be 5%. This will provide a Fresh Start to many Kittitians and Nevisians who have had great difficulty in getting a loan from commercial banks.
Some of the SMEs that the fund will target include rural community shops, supermarkets, bars and restaurants, fishermen, taxi operators, commuter buses, equipment for those involved in masonry and carpentry, trucking and earth moving equipment, videography and photography, barber shops and salons.
This is thanks to a loan of US$5 million from the Government of Venezuela through PetroCaribe. The loan agreement was signed Friday 4th September by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Timothy Harris. Also present were the Minister responsible for PetroCaribe Hon. Ian Patches Liburd, and Directors of the Board of Development Bank.
The handing over ceremony took place in the board room of the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis (DBSKN) with Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris; General Manager of PDVSA, Maria Colmenares; Charge D’affaires in the Venezuelan Embassy, Monica Liendo Lopez; the Honourable Ian “Patches” Liburd, Minister of Public Infrastructure, Posts, Urban Development and Transport; General Manager of the DBSKN, Lenworth Harris; and two witnesses to the signing Lawyer Deniece Alleyne and Director of the SKNANB Alex Nisbett.
Prime Minister Harris, along with Minister Liburd respectively, hailed the signing of the loan agreement as “another signal moment for us in St. Kitts and Nevis that shows in a very effective way how the Team Unity Administration has been leveraging its foreign policy in ways that redound to the benefit of the ordinary citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis” and “another commitment of Team Unity in terms of giving everybody a fresh start”.
“When we think of the PetroCaribe Agreement ,most people just think of oil, supplying fuel for our generation plant, but it’s much more than oil, it’s about our social, cultural and of course economic development,” Minister Liburd said, stressing that “this is only the start of many more things to come under PetroCaribe”.
Echoing the views of Minister Liburd, PDVSA Manager Maria Colmenares, said the agreement “goes beyond the trade of oil” to “the development of the people, culture and any other thing”.
Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris gave the assurance that “the fund will not be contaminated by the preference of the Government”.
Prime Minister Harris mentioned that the first initiative with the Government and People of Venezuela through the PDVSA arrangement was a grant of EC$ 16 million “to satisfy the felt needs of former sugar workers who felt shortchanged when in 2005 the industry was closed”.
“This like the 16 million EC dollars for the former sugar workers is targeting those who need the support most, and this particular arrangement which we call the Fresh Start Project is intended to give a fresh start to young and not so young entrepreneurs, those who otherwise are finding it difficult to be able to access financing from the commercial financial institutions…it is intended to help the ordinary citizens—poor, independent-minded, ambitious—who want to make a fresh start on their own, who want to be able to create their own jobs, who want to be able to determine their rate of inflows if given a try at business venture and this is what it is intended to do,” Prime Minister Harris said.
Prime Minister Harris said that in part the agreement signed between his Government and PDVSA reads: “To remove the equity hurdle requirement where it represents a barrier to the target group starting or rebuilding of a small to medium size business venture”.