One week after its official launch, Government’s Trust Loans Division has disbursed its first set of money to six entrepreneurs at its Harbour Industrial Park offices.
Unit Manager Jerry Amos stated that Barbadians have so far responded well to the initiative, which is aimed at disbursing small loans to micro and small business operators as Barbados seeks to place greater emphasis on entrepreneurship as an instrument to rebuild the economy. “In the first week alone, over 400 applicants have come into the office, while 440 people have sent in applications online. We have had both young people and more mature clients, and while the numbers might sound overwhelming, we were ready to deal with them.”
Amos said however, that owing to the high numbers, the loans might take a little longer to process at this stage. “Ideally we are promising a 48 to 72-hour turnaround time between the application and approval, but given the current demand, that will now stretch to five to seven days. We plan to follow up with our clients. Every two months we will check with them to see how their ventures are faring, and they will also attend courses put on by the Small Business Association.”
The first six beneficiaries from the fund are Junior Howell, an artist; carpenter/joiner Damien Prosper; Meschia Baird, a chicken farmer; Nina Fields, a “natural juice fusions specialist”; bar and restaurant owner Evans Marcellin and event planner Tashema Foster.
Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland who attended the presentation, noted that some of the workers in the Trust Loans Division were among the first batch of public servants laid off last month. “We made it our business to engage and re-employ some of the people who had lost their jobs, and in fact, those workers were the first ones we interviewed and recruited to get this division up and running.”
He added “The next step is to take this programme digital. The first batch of funds, some $2 million, has come in, but before we get to the second one, we want to start giving these loans on a digital platform. As part of Government’s overall plan to create a “Smart Bridgetown”, we want to use the digital platform not only for tourism purposes, but to support small businesses operating in the City.”
Under the Trust Loans Fund, customers can borrow up to $5,000 at 5 per cent interest, with a repayment period of up to three years. They are required to provide a valid Barbados ID as well as a quotation relating to the purpose of the funding.