Sint Maarten Trust Fund launches enterprise support project

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PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The US$35 million Enterprise Support Project was officially launched August 11, 2020. The project is funded by the Sint Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction, and Resilience Trust Fund, financed by the government of the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank, and implemented by the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) on behalf of the government of Sint Maarten.

The project aims to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through direct financial assistance to contribute to the restoration of economic activity in Sint Maarten.

“Micro, small, and medium enterprises are key for the island’s economic recovery and for job creation. This project can benefit Sint Maarten’s economy by supporting viable local enterprises, so that they can continue operations, and better prepare for the future,” said Michelle Keane, World Bank program manager for the Sint Maarten Trust Fund.

The Enterprise Support Project will provide grants and financing to eligible MSMEs through participating financial institutions, which currently include Qredits and the Windward Islands Bank Ltd. MSMEs are important for the economy and employment in Sint Maarten, but often lack the financial resources of larger firms, so are more vulnerable to shocks. Many firms continue to struggle since hurricane Irma, and have been further severely affected by the unprecedented economic disruption caused by COVID-19. Business continuity planning training will be provided to enterprises and financial institutions in Sint Maarten, as well as training to lenders to improve their MSME lending products. Overall the project intends to provide direct financial assistance to more than 500 MSMEs, including training to 150 MSMEs over the next four years.

“Though there were many challenges to overcome, with much perseverance and an eagerness to propel MSMEs forward, we are proud to announce that ESP has been launched. Together with Central Bank, WIB, and Qredits, we welcome other local financial institutions to help us build a stronger and more resilient Sint Maarten.

What is also key in this project is the opportunity for St Maarten to properly develop its Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise sector through other important aspects of the project. This is a study to strengthen the resilience of the economy to future shocks, in addition to incorporating trainings to enterprises and participating financial institutions. The aim is to improve MSME lending capabilities to ensure better MSME access to finance and improving resilience of businesses.

“We therefore look to the ministry of economic affairs and other organizations such as the Social Economic Council (SER) and St Maarten Chamber of Commerce (COCI) to foster a strong and cohesive collaboration  in the spirit of Private and Public Partnerships (PPP) to provide support to the NRPB, ESP Team in successfully executing this mission,” said Claret Connor, NRPB director.

Chris Johnson, head of the Representation of the Netherlands in Sint Maarten VNP, commented, “The island of Sint Maarten was heavily damaged by the hurricanes of 2017, including its economy. For Sint Maarten’s reconstruction I believe it is important that the private sector will recover in an innovative and flexible manner. With the launch of the Enterprise Support Project the need to support micro, small and medium enterprises, is addressed. The project design is geared to contribute to the sustainable recovery of the private sector on Sint Maarten. I hope to see tangible results on the island soon.”

Resources for interested applicants can be found at: https://nrpbsxm.org/esp/

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