PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — On Tuesday we read the headline in the daily paper, “Qredits discontinues soft-loan programme.” The information in the newspaper was based on a press release that was issued by Qredits in the Netherlands.
I was sworn in as Minister of TEATT the day before. After learning about the aforementioned on Tuesday, I requested information in order to understand what the situation with Qredits is and what can be done for the program to continue.
Qredits has been very beneficial to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises on the island. Today, Wednesday, is also micro, small and medium-sized enterprises day. Congrats to all business owners and employees.
Qredits not only serves Sint Maarten, but also Saba and St. Eustatius.
A total of 206 loan applications have been received with respect to Sint Maarten; 90 loans were approved and issued to a value of US$2 million; 60 per cent of the loans went to new business start-ups while the other 40 per cent went to existing businesses; 71 applications are pending; 45 applications were not approved; and the Qredits office on average receives two new applications every work day.
This demonstrates the importance of micro-financing and the necessity of such. As Minister of Economic Affairs, I will do what is necessary to facilitate the continuance of this program which is vital for the recovery and rebuilding of our national economy.
The Qredits program received funding from the Dutch Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations to provide loans for local businesses for a period of six months, from January 2018 to June 2018 under special conditions especially after Hurricane Irma.
Qredits normally gives financing at an interest rate of 9.75 per cent with a non-payment period of three months. The six-month micro-financing program financed by the Dutch Government was under special conditions, and these included a maximum loan of US$25,000; an interest rate of two per cent for a five-year period; and a no repayment period for one year.
Qredits has to resort back to its original program of an interest rate of 9.75 per cent until some other arrangement can be made during the last quarter of 2018.
The Dutch Government is now opting to channel additional funds through the World Bank.
The process via the World Bank will take time and therefore there will be a delay in the continuation of the program which is unfortunate but a reality that we will have to work with in order to get the program back on track for the Sint Maarten micro, small and medium-sized business sector.
I will be working diligently with my colleagues in the Council of Ministers and other pertinent stakeholders to see what the possibilities for the resumption of the program are, as it will benefit the rebuilding of the economy which is in the national interests.