Caricom trade support loans available to local private sectors

Local private sector businesses are yet to take advantage of funding available under the Caricom Trade Support (CTS) Programme established by the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Trinidad and Tobago to provide support for regional businesses seeking to enhance their competitiveness in the wake of the January 1, 2006 introduction of the Caricom Single Market (CSM). Funding is available under the CTS programme for capacity building and technical assistance support in several key areas of local private sector activity including agriculture, fisheries, wood processing and information technology according to information received by Stabroek Business from the CTS secretariat in Port of Spain. CTS programme Business Advisory Specialist Avenash Ramsoobhag told Stabroek Business in a telephone interview from Port Of Spain earlier this week that the programme recently disbursed technical assistance loans totalling US $180,000 to two regional private sector businesses, Sunspot of Suri-name and Pulse Investment Ltd. of Jamaica.

The Sunspot loan will be used to restructure the entity in order to ensure enhanced profitability while the funding made available to the Jamaican company, PULSE, will be used to develop an export marketing programme for the company. Loans have also been approved under the CTS programme for private sector firms in St Kitts, Antigua and Grenada.

According to Ramsoo-bhag countries in the region had been made aware of the CTS loan facility. He said that the programme was keen to receive loan applications from businesses across the region.

The CTS programme is offering loans at market rates for plant, equipment and inventory through financial institutions like the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (RBTT) and EXIM Bank of the United States. Under the CTS programme regional private sector entities can also secure interest-free loans for the utilization of consultants in business development projects. Ramsoobhag told Stabroek Business that the CTS programme had been designed to help the region respond to the steady erosion of external market preferences for goods produced in the region and the corresponding urgent need to revitalize and technologically enhance regional businesses and to diversify into new ventures.

He said that the CTS programme was also seeking to help redress imbalances in intra-regional trade, enhance the efficiency and competitiveness of regional businesses, facilitate the creation of a cadre of regional entrepreneurs and encourage sectoral development programmes and initiatives at the national and regional levels.

The CTS programme has identified several key sectors which will be considered for technical assistance under the programme including agriculture and fisheries, manufacturing of consumer products, wood processing, information technology, tourism, and construction.

Loans approved under the CTS programme will be disbursed by the RBTT and the bank will also be responsible for administering loan repayments and the securitization of loan funds.

Stabroek Business understands that loans will be made available to approved firms in amounts ranging from US$6,000 to US$100,000.

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