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Minister of Housing, Transport and Works, Robert Pickersgill, has stressed that the Government was committed to the stimulation of Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs), as this sector has the potential to be the major driving force of Jamaica’s economy.
“To do this, we must be prepared to extend credit on favourable terms to SMEs with sound business plans,” he said.
The Minister reiterated the investment of $1 billion from the National Insurance Fund (NIF) in the sector. The funds will be disbursed through responsible organizations experienced in working with small and medium-sized enterprises. Mr. Pickersgill was speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, at the Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union League Limited’s Convention and 65th Annual General Meeting, which was held on May 19 at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios, St. Ann.
“As a result of continued prudent management to maximize returns on investments, the NIF now stands at over $42 Billion and in keeping with this strategic plan, the NIF has decided to become involved in projects that have a developmental impact, specifically those geared at economic growth and employment generation,” the Minister pointed out.
As part of this thrust, he said Cabinet recently approved a loan of $50 million to the National Development Foundation of Jamaica, adding that the Fund was also reviewing proposals from institutions such as the Micro Investment Development Agency (MIDA), Churches Co-operative Credit Union, and the Self Start Fund, among others.
Mr. Pickersgill noted that the reduction in interest rates was now bearing fruit. “Last year we saw an increase in the demand for bank credit by the private sector, particularly during the first half of the fiscal year. We have also seen where more resources have been freed up by the Bank of Jamaica and are now available for the banks to lend,” he added.
The Minister said that Credit Unions had the potential to be major catalysts of growth in that area, as they were strategically positioned to respond to the prevailing needs.
He commended the Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union League for the work they have been doing and urged them to continue.
Mr. Pickersgill said that despite the challenges facing the country, due to the uncertainty of oil prices and natural disasters, the Government was committed to low and stable inflation.
He emphasized that the administration was steadfast in this direction, as they recognized that the impact of inflation was most severe and adverse on fixed income earners, such as pensioners and savers.