PHILIPSBURG – On Tuesday, January 24, the Council of Ministers received a presentation by representatives of the Department of Economy, Transportation & Telecommunication, in the persons of Department Head Lucy Gibbes, the Department’s two Senior Policy advisors Makhicia Brooks and Jude Houston, and Director of Qredits Elwin Groenevelt. The functioning and sustainability of the program Qredits was explained to the Council.
Based on the Ministry’s Economic Development Plan, the Department of Economy, Transportation & Telecommunication, identified two key pillars to focus their immediate attention on, namely to increase Foreign Direct Invest (FDI) and to stimulate Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). With the FDI, the focus was on the development of a package of digital promotional tools including a website (www.investmentguide.sx) and material that can easily be distributed.
The second pillar was the empowerment of St. Maarten’s SMEs, especially considering that these enterprises account for 80% of all businesses on the island. Research showed that two constant issues kept arising among these enterprises. First, access to affordable and to reliable information/knowledge, which was addressed by the Department via providing free classes and workshops with funding from COSME, the EU programme for the Competitiveness of SMEs. The second challenge was access to microfinancing.
After the necessary research, contact was made with the non-profit foundation Qredits. This foundation, which has been in existence since 2009, offers unsecured micro and small business loans to qualified individuals while the risk is carried by Qredits. A sum of about €250 million has been made available for SMEs on St. Maarten.
According to Gibbes, “Qredits has the advantage of creating employment through job creation and increase revenue collection by government.” It is the intention to commence with this project by September 2017. The necessary preparations, which includes the set-up of a front office with two local loan officers, will take place beforehand. The project will run as a 2-year pilot. Further discussions will also take place on how to implement the aspects of entrepreneurships in the school curriculums.
The Council reacted positively to the initiative taken by the Department of Economy, Transportation & Telecommunication and was of the opinion that Qredits would create a great opportunity for the people St. Maarten. The Council is looking forward to the upcoming launch in September and beyond. Upon advice of the Council, a similar presentation will be held with the Labour Department.