The Government of the Netherlands, with the support of the World Bank, officially launched the US$35-million Enterprise Support Project today.
With funding coming through the Sint Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction, and Resilience Trust Fund, the project aims to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through direct financial assistance to contribute to the restoration of economic activity in the Dutch territory.
The project will be implemented by the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) on behalf of the Government of 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.
To this end, 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.
“What is also key in this project is the opportunity for St Maarten to properly develop its micro, small and medium enterprise sector… 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.”— Claret O’Connor, director, National Recovery Program Bureau
The project will, therefore, address the lack of financial resources that MSMEs so often face as well as their vulnerability to shocks.
Since the passage of Hurricane Irma three years ago, several firms in Sint Maarten have struggled to recover and are now severely affected by the unprecedented economic disruption caused by COVID-19.
The project will also focus on providing business continuity planning training enterprises and financial institutions in Sint Maarten, as well as training to lenders to improve their MSME lending products. Ultimately, 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 [the] central bank, WIB, and Qredits, we welcome other local financial institutions to help us build a stronger and more resilient Sint Maarten,” said Claret Connor, NRPB director.
“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,” she further pointed out.
Connor, as a result, called on the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Social Economic Council (SER), and St Maarten Chamber of Commerce (COCI) to create a strong and cohesive collaboration in the spirit of private and public partnerships (PPP) to support the NRPB, ESP Team to successfully implement the project.