Tuesday, August 9th, will be remembered as a very significant day for hoteliers and farmers in Dominica as Government and the Agricultural Industrial Development (AID) Bank signed two contracts expected to significantly boost economic activity.
Exactly two weeks since he outlined in his budget address, Hon Minister for Finance and Prime Minister, Dr. Roosevelt Skerrit, signed into agreement the $15m line of credit to improve hotels and restaurants and $10m for farmers and pig and chicken growers, to boost the agriculture industry placing it at the AID Bank to on-lend to local farmers and hoteliers to improve their businesses.
He is confident that the $25m investment will lead to an increase in jobs for Dominicans.
Prime Minister Skerrit said, “This two investments by the Government, with no doubt will benefit job creation in Dominica. There will be no less than 17 properties which will benefit from the $15m. One can understand the construction jobs that will be created. Some of these properties are also expanding and enhancing their ability to compete. Once they have become competitive, we expect them to do much better than they are doing now as far as their businesses and returns are concerned.
“Therefore we will see opportunities for more sustainable jobs in our economy and in our country. We understand firsthand the challenges confronting farmers. We believe by providing that concessionary financing to farmers, they can pay for labour, buy machinery and planting materials so that they will be in a much better position. They will be able to spend many more hours on the farms and produce more.”
Within this special loan facility, the $10m to on-lend to farmers will be available at a rate of 3% interest with a six month grace period while $15m will be available to on-lend to hoteliers and restaurateurs at that same interest rate but a one year grace period.
Hon Dr. Skerrit described the terms of the loan agreement as exceptional.
The Hon Minster for Agriculture, Johnson Drigo, explained that there are four factors adversely affecting the advancement of farmers: land, labour, knowledge and capital.
The loan facility serves as a direct response to farmers’ need for capital particularly in the pork and poultry sectors.
“On a daily basis, several requests are made to the Ministry of Agriculture for financial support by various farmers and other persons wishing to invest in agriculture. Requests range from seeds and planting materials to inputs, waiver on farm vehicles, farm implements, and equipment for processing and value addition. Packaging material for export produce is also included. The Hon Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, has listened and today the barrier of limited access to affordable credit and high interest rates will be removed,” Hon Drigo noted.
The $15m facility for hoteliers and restaurant owners comes as a result of Government’s private sector consultation.
The Hon Minister for Tourism, Senator Robert Tonge, spoke of his Ministry’s plans to ensure that beneficiaries of the programme are successful.
“This loan facility is of much significance to the sector because it further stimulates the enabling environment to allow the private sector to partner in the movement to enhance the experience of our guests and to drive growth in the tourism sector. The Government has listened to the request of the private sector and we have recognized that such an intervention is required and timely. We are also looking at putting in place what I call a high level management training course for the hoteliers and the operators of hotels. As you [hoteliers] are going to be accessing those funds, we want to ensure that your business will be successful. We are going to be working with Ministry of Commerce and the AID Bank to ensure that persons are better equipped to manage their businesses so that they can be successful.”
The two loan facilities are funded by the Citizenship by Investment Programme.