Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 02, 2017 (SKNIS): During his monthly press conference on February 01, held at Government Headquarters, Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, said that some $21 million was disbursed to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) through the Fresh Start Programme in 2016 and $35.4 million has been pledged for 2017.
So far, 427 applicants have succeeded in getting loans amounting to a total of $28.5 million.
The prime minister said that SMEs are treated with the same level of importance and preference as foreign and large business entities, especially those entities that were funded by the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF).
“We said we will help these small local businesses and we are pleased that we have been able to do so,” said the prime minister.
Prime Minister Harris said that the money allotted through the Fresh Start Programme is the largest pool of resources ever mobilized by any government in support of SMEs.
He said the beneficiaries of the Fresh Start Programme cover a wide spectrum of business ventures.
“Among the groups of beneficiaries are people involved in agriculture and agro processing. We saw many of them on display when the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis held an open day in Independence Square,” he said. “We saw joiners and we saw a lawyer who stood on the stage to say ‘I am a proud beneficiary of support from the Fresh Start Programme’.”
In addition to the money, the Development Bank has employed at least two professional persons who provide support to SMEs in management, record keeping and understanding the difference between dollars in and profits.
“Sometimes people mix it up. That you get a good sale today and people forget that some of it is yours and some of it is to pay your creditors and that is one of the challenges why several small businesses falter and die,” said the prime minister.
Prime Minister Harris said that the government has faith in the SMEs because across the world “they have become the engine of economic growth. Some may fail but many would survive. So we want that to continue.”
The Fresh Start Programme was made possible through the assistance provided by the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s joint venture company through its Petróleos de Venezuela S.A.(PDVSA) St. Kitts-Nevis Limited.