SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - To date, US $1.7 million has been disbursed to enterprises within the St. Maarten small business community who have taken advantage of the combination grant/loan financial assistance offered through the Enterprise Support Project (ESP). The US $35 million relief initiative is being implemented by the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB) and is funded by the Government of the Netherlands through the Sint Maarten Trust Fund.
The project, launched in August 2020, has seen interest from a wide range of sectors including architectural services, e-commerce, restaurants, tour companies, and physiotherapy clinics. Disbursed money has supported businesses in purchasing necessary equipment, non-structural repairs, and expansions of services, thus strengthening the sustainability of the small business community on the island. To date, thirty (30) enterprises have been approved and the project’s team is in the process of working their way through an additional eight-five applications.
“It is no secret that access to financing is a long-standing challenge for all small businesses, particularly for women and for young entrepreneurs. Through the ESP, twelve women owned or managed, businesses have been approved for funds to date.” Anisa Dijkhoffz, the ESP Portfolio and Accounting Officer, comments. “We maintain a close relationship with all of our enlisted beneficiaries. We take the time to explain not only the benefits, but also the obligations related to the project such as maintaining accurate financial records and adhering to the safeguard and environmental policies of the World Bank and Sint Maarten.”
NRPB Director Claret Connor considers the project, which will run until 2024, to already show signs of success. “We’ve had great responses to the Enterprise Support Project and the benefits are already visible. We continue to engage different target groups and have held several informative information sessions in various districts on the island. This project has tremendous potential to positively affect the economy of our island. We highly encourage entrepreneurs and established businesses to not let this once in a lifetime opportunity pass them by.”
The ESP offers financial support in the form of three packages. The Working Capital Package is being offered at favorable terms and rates to assist company’s everyday expenses during this economic downturn. The Asset and Repair Package offers financing for non-structural repairs and assists businesses in investing in assets that support their unique needs. In addition, the project offers a Re-Financing Package that allows for the refinancing of performing loans not exceeding US$20,000 to free up collateral. The ESP offers financing opportunities to meet the needs of any small businesses, from those that are in the startup phase to those that are already established.
Small businesses that are interested in applying should visit the NRPB’s website and arrange the required documents to submit to the NRPB, the first point of contact for all applications. The project is supported by local financial partners Banco di Caribe, Qredits, and Windward Islands Bank. Other financial institutions who are interested in joining the project are encouraged to reach out to the team for more information on how they can be a part of efforts to build a strong and resilient small business community.