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Hippolyte on the MSMEs Loan Grant Programme: It’s Our Flagship Programme

Minister for Commerce, Manufacturing, Business Development, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs Emma Hippolyte
Minister for Commerce, Manufacturing, Business Development, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs Emma Hippolyte

THIS  week, Commerce Minister Emma Hippolyte highlighted the progression of the Medium Small Micro Enterprise (MSME) programme in the country. She noted that despite some challenges, ministry staffers were working assiduously to facilitate the applicants.

Describing the MSME Loan Grant Facility, as “Our Flagship Programme”, the minister said the department recently met with the chairperson of the Evaluation Committee, representatives from the St Lucia Development Bank (CDB) and ministry staffers to meet workload deadlines.

She said, the task to complete applications is also being processed as they prepare for the second phase of the programme, scheduled for next month (January).

“We are looking at this and it’s a big challenge, but …we sat and tried to put a plan of action in place to try to deal with all the backlogs,” Hippolyte told reporters at a media briefing.

She said the SLDB was faced with some challenges, which involved having to relocate to other premises and that impacted the agency’s operations. The SLDB, with a new system in place also had other matters to deal with, the minister reported, and so, “we agreed as to how they were going to improve on that”.

Hippolyte noted that one of the challenges hovers around the disbursement of funds to prospective applicants.

“In disbursing some of those loans, some of the invoices that were presented to the Ministry of Commerce, (from May to June) are now dated,” she said.

The minister said the department is working to accommodate those persons that had applied to the MSME programme, and whose applications have not been sorted out.

“We are working urgently to process these applications, but if in your application you had any invoice, at the time…try to get more current invoices to us,” she urged, so as to avoid unnecessary delays and better facilitate the process.

Hippolyte stated that another challenge the ministry has to contend with involves concerns about “the high price of goods on the supermarket shelves.”

Towards this cause, the ministry hosted a Public Consultation on Inflation, Thursday, which involved an informative panel discussion consisting of key personnel from the business sector. Other speakers included representatives from the ministry and top management official from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) providing enlightening discourse on the issue.

The session covered a wide array of issues, which focused on areas, such as ‘productivity affects profitability’, price gouging and consumers being more knowledgeable about the goods that they purchase.

Some of the public comments revolved around tutoring students from the school level about the rudiments of business, re-introduction of Agricultural Science subject at schools and the ‘purchasing power’ of consumers.

Regarding the purchase of items from the supermarket shelves, concerns were directed at the price of hygienic commodities and other things.

“Government cannot provide all the items because of the nature of the economy that we have,” declared Hippolyte.

The minister said there must be cohesion in the system to address these matters, and government has to “partner with the business community” to sort out these issues.

She underlined the importance of the National Consumers Association (NCA) in the process and urged persons to become members of the NCA, “because as consumers you have the power …you have the cash.”

Meanwhile, Hippolyte explained that the Ministry of Commerce is collaborating with the Ministry of Finance to assist farmers with the supply of dasheen.

The Soufriere MP referred to the constituency, particularly the Fond St Jacques area, as the “Dasheen Capital of Saint Lucia”.

“We have had two meetings with them, and we are getting the support of Export Saint Lucia …because we have gone out there and identified markets for dasheen,” she added.

“What we are trying to do is to expand the dasheen acreage …so we’ve met with about 50 farmers and we have our extension officers on the ground to first get data and to establish those persons who are going to participate in the expansion programme,” the minister explained.

Hippolyte also spoke concerning the “roofing and repair programme” being undertaken at Baron’s Drive, Soufriere.

“So far, we have identified and completed about 28 houses in Baron’s Drive, Soufriere …it is a critical project,” she asserted.

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