Signing Ceremony of SBDF Projects


A signing ceremony was held of the SBDF projects on July 6th 2009 at 11 am at the Government Administration building in the A.C. Legislative Hall.


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The Overview of the 3 SEI Projects that were signed:

Here are some pictural highlights of the ceremony:

The Executive Council and Small Business Development Foundation (SBDF) signed a financing agreement on Monday to the tune of NAf. 1,159,950 for the execution of three Social Economic Initiative (SEI) projects by SBDF.

Among the projects to be financed is the formulation of draft legislation for a much-needed Consumer Protection Act to safeguard consumers from unscrupulous business practices. The government has committed NAf. 50,000 for this project.

The other projects being funded are the job training programme "Be Your Own Boss" (NAf. 859,950) and an SBDF support and capacity building project (NAf. 250,000).

President of the SBDF Ms.Veronica Jansen

SBDF Director Ludwig Ouenniche said SBDF would sit with St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry immediately to draft the consumer protection legislation. Once completed, the draft document will be submitted to the Executive Council for further handling.

Currently consumers who purchase defective items or those subjected to unscrupulous businesses practices are left in the cold. Once the legislation is enacted, consumers will be able to take firmer measures against such businesses.

Commissioner of Economic Affairs Frans Richardson said this initiative would help St. Maarten maintain its reputation as the shopping mecca of the Caribbean.

"Through the implementation and enforcement of this proposed act, consumers and businesses will be protected from malpractices and unethical behaviour with regard to goods and services rendered," Richardson said just before affixing his signature to the agreement.

SBDF Director Ludwig Ouenniche

"Following the great number of complaints by consumers, both local and visitors, and complaints received by small businesses [about] the lack of having an equal playing field in doing business, this programme will help maintain and enhance the image of St. Maarten," he said.

Ouenniche and SBDF President Veronica Jansen-Webster expressed similar sentiments. Jansen-Webster said numerous complaints had been received from consumers about bad business practices. "This is an area that has to be tackled," she stressed.

The "Be Your Own Boss" programme will consist of three major components focusing on grooming unemployed and delinquent youngsters ages 18-21 years in a trade. The intention is to mould young entrepreneurs.

Richardson plugged the programme as a positive initiative, saying it could help a large number of young people who are unemployed. The programme is also expected to help in the area of poverty alleviation. It is expected to aid in the development of new economic activities, create entrepreneurs, and combat unemployment by offering opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Jansen-Webster said the "Be Your Own Boss" programme was an area close to her heart because of the prospects for youngsters.

Parties are counting on the cooperation of St. Maarten Marine Trades Association (SMTS), as the marine sector will be one of the areas in which youngsters will be trained.

Youths registered in the programme will also be trained in the areas of condominium development, building, and as masseurs/masseuses, Richardson said.

School dropouts in the target group, young ex-convicts, and unemployed youths are being encouraged to register. Youngsters who are registered in the social formation programme and those registered as unemployed at the Island Labour Department are also being encouraged to apply. They should call Ouenniche at 553-1600, or SBDF at 543-0777.

The SBDF capacity building project is geared towards strengthening the capacity and the level of delivery of services offered by SBDF to the various target groups. This project, which will run for four months, entails the improvement and upgrading of SBDF’s services as an integral part of SEI implementation, as well as for future activities, Richardson said.

Capacity building will be based on the need to support small and medium enterprises (SME) as well as on the assistance rendered to the growing number of local youth wishing to become entrepreneurs, particularly in the marine and condominium sectors.

"The goal of this project is to upgrade the organisation in an efficient manner, enabling it to cater to more clients and the development of new strategies and approaches in targeting and enhancing the labour market by supplying and creating job opportunities," Richardson said.

Jansen-Webster said she was particularly pleased with this project, because it would strengthen SBDF’s position to execute other projects.

Ouenniche said the capacity building project would start immediately, as there was need for a major improvement at SBDF. The office is also in need of a number of items.

He said the government was taking action to stimulate the economy and called for these initiatives to be seen as the glass half full and not half empty as he said was being portrayed recently.

Richardson said the three projects were expected to help the economy, as St. Maarten’s economy is not very diverse.

"Economic activity takes place mostly in the tourism sector. By strengthening the small business sector and by stimulating more diverse economic activities, the economy will be less prone to external shocks that affect the tourist industry. This will also create a broader supply in jobs so that there are more chances in the labour market for job seekers and graduates who studied abroad," he explained.

The projects signed were part of a priority list established by Dutch funding agency USONA in collaboration with the Executive Council. It consists of seven projects to be implemented in the first phase, four of which were financed by the Dutch Government and the three signed yesterday financed by the Island Government of St. Maarten.