Thuesday’s news of the discontinuation of the Qredits Soft Loan programme has led to disappointment among entrepreneurs and small businesses in Saba and St. Eustatius. “This programme has been a major alternative to requesting business loans through the commercial banks on the islands, where the possibility of receiving loan assistance was less than favourable. Many start-up businesses saw this programme as a viable avenue to get their projects off the ground,” the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of St. Eustatius and Saba said Wednesday in a reaction.
“Since the kingdom has indicated that it is their plan to assist entrepreneurs and small-business operators in these islands in getting their ventures going and in building the economy of the islands the cancellation of this programme should be reviewed,” the Chamber said.
Qredits received a budget for 90 loans from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations in The Hague as part of the Early Recovery projects post-Hurricane Irma. The aim was to receive additional budget through the World Bank for 300 more loans.
The Chamber of Commerce states that whatever happens with the economic situation in St. Maarten causes similar problems on Statia and Saba. ‘As Sint Maarten moves to rebuild the country after the devastating Hurricanes Irma and Maria of 2017, our two islands are dependent on her. We feed off the economic mechanisms of St. Maarten. Therefore, anything which negatively affects St. Maarten will, eventually, have a similar effect on her two sister islands.” The Chamber, therefore, advise the “relevant authorities” to revisit Qredits and to research any other soft loan programme which may be available to Saba and Statia.
“We have many questions about their plans regarding the rebuilding of our islands and the level of economic assistance which they say will be made available to us in these islands for the funding of projects and for the overall assistance to entrepreneurs and small-business enterprises.”
Over the past months, since the establishment of Qredits, the Chamber of Commerce has assisted a number of individuals, start-up ventures and established small-business operators and entrepreneurs in preparing documentation to qualify for the soft-loan programme. Some of these businesses and individuals have already been approved for loans and there are others still in the process of completing their paperwork.
“This news has come as a major blow and it is a hard disappointment to swallow, particularly at this time of the year. The Chamber of Commerce looks forward to having talks with the relevant authorities, in the coming weeks, with a view to exploring alternative means of providing financial assistance to this segment of the community and to implement additional programmes and measures to be able to continue a positive forward motion and to effectively and vigorously promote the economic growth of our islands,” the Chamber said.