MP Ardwell Irion: Create more opportunities and support more initiatives for young entrepreneurs

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CUL DE SAC, Sint Maarten — On Saturday, January 28, ACU Credit Union celebrated its 55th anniversary and opened its first physical location here on St. Maarten.

Another financial institution Qredits, a micro-financing organization, is expected to start its operations. These new financial institutions are welcomed additions to our financial market, especially for small businesses and new entrepreneurs. The Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic & Telecommunication, in particular the Department of Economics Transport and Telecommunications, deserves some credit in their continued efforts in finding ways to stimulate our economy with a focus on the Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) the last few years.

The common complaint among SMEs, new and young entrepreneurs is the limited and/or no access to financing. A quick scan of Qredits’ website shows possible financing of up to €250,000. The maximum financing options that will be available locally was not mentioned, but the fact that a total of €250 million has been made available to SMEs in unsecured loans on St. Maarten is a good start!

With ACU Credit Union, once you become a member, you receive new savings options at considerably higher interest rates than what is currently available on the island. This may encourage the practice of saving to invest, something I personally believe in. With options like dividends and lending at special rates as members, it opens doors to people on the island who are new to investing. I’ve had young professionals approaching me for financial advice on how to invest or where to save their money as they become more financial literate and understand the importance of not just hoarding money against inflation.

Having started with financial investing (trading) in college and co-founding a company in my early 20s, I understand the importance of being financially literate at a young age and how much it could have helped me with making better decisions when it comes to investing. Financial literacy in my belief is a core life skill for participating in a modern society. We are growing up in a more demanding and increasingly complex world where the children of today will eventually need to take charge of their own financial future at much younger ages than their parents.

We would have to take control of our curriculum and have it adjusted to fit our needs and needs of the future. I plan to sit with the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs & Sports to have discussions on a future national curriculum that incorporates coding, local and Caribbean history and financial literacy.

In conclusion, I applaud these initiatives which I see as potentially beneficial for our island. I will do more research on ACU Credit union and their business on St. Maarten. The establishing of the Qredits micro financing organization will be continuously monitored and I will seek updates closer to the date from the Minister of TEATT.

As a Member of Parliament, I look forward to helping create more opportunities and support more initiatives that focus on SME’s, new and young entrepreneurs.