The Daily Herald writes that a “Direct Assistance Grant Scheme” workshop was held at the Saba Roads Conference Room in The Bottom on Friday. The workshop was intended for businesses and business service organisations who are interested in applying for a grant.
The 10th European Development Programme started recently. This programme for all Caribbean overseas countries and territories is aimed at strengthening the small and medium enterprise sector and business support organisations. It is part of a grant scheme under the European Development Fund whereby qualified and approved applicants can receive a grant of up to 12,000 euros for eligible projects.
Wolfgang Tooten, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Saba and Statia said “the programme is currently running and businesses can apply for the grant. It’s pretty intense paperwork but its free money in case you get it.”
The Chamber says it encourages businesses to apply for such a grant in case a business project cannot be financed otherwise. Furthermore, the Chamber of Commerce (CoC) recently invited the Dutch Central Bank, The Windward Islands Bank (WIB), the Development Bank of the Dutch Antilles (OBNA) and The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to Saba.
The reason behind this meeting was to discuss the current problems with acquiring loans, especially for private persons, families and small local businesses. The meeting was held at the Tax Office in The Bottom.
WIB Managing Director Derek Downes was one of the representatives. He also met with Tooten in April this year to discuss the state of the economy on Saba, and other banking related issues. One of the discussion points was the problem of acquiring more bank payment POS machines for Saba in a timely fashion, a problem which was resolved shortly after this meeting by Downes.
Tooten called the meeting in April “very fruitful” and the groundwork for the current visit in June was laid out. He also states that he is very pleased with the commitment of WIB to stay on the islands and their support of local citizens and businesses.
Downes promised several visits of WIB management per year to keep in touch with the local development and to resolve problems between the bank and its customers if they occur.
The recent meeting was also organised by Koen van Laar, Policy Advisor for the Local Government on Saba and amongst others, the Saba Business Association and the local government. The meeting was hosted by Tooten and Koen van Laar.
Amongst the attendants were Leen van Duijn and Marijn Ridderikhof from The Dutch Bank DNB, Kenneth Lei, who is a representative of the OBNA Bank in St. Maarten and Downes from WIB via video conference.
Tooten was disappointed to say the least that although RBC was also invited they did not send a representative to the meeting. This was an important opportunity the RBC bank missed, Tooten says.
The main topic of the meeting was about private and business loans, regulations and the lack of coin supply to the islands. According to Downes, one of the main reasons these loans are harder to obtain is because the Authority on Financial Affairs (AFM) has increased their “points system” which measures the eligibility of an applicant to acquire a loan. Downes called it a “flaw” in the AFM model.
Downes also encouraged business to make more use of a scheme offered by the bank in cooperation with the Dutch government which can be used in case not enough collateral is present while applying for a bank loan. This is echoed by Tooten, who added that business owners should talk to their bank about this scheme, since it was implemented to help businesses to receive easier funding.