The aim of the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) is to have citizens benefitting from the Foundation’s investments and be beneficiaries of its programs says Chief Executive Officer Terrence Crossman. Crossman was speaking to reporters following the launch of three loan-oriented initiatives. He said that while not everything that the SIDF does would be driven by economic returns, ultimately, “It is about improving standards of living and quality of life.”In reference to critics on accountability issues, Crossman disagreed that it was the case. “We’ve been extremely accountable since the inception of SIDF. We have had our accounts audited. We have suffered some delays, because of our ownership stake in Belmont Resort, which is Kittitian Hill. It requires first that we amalgamate the accounts, and so we have a draft of our 2012 financials already, and we’re awaiting word from our auditors on the consolidation. We cannot publish them without the consolidation, but I think it’s going to be a good story, as it has been since the SIDF inception.”Pointing to the contributions it has made over the years, the Chief Executive Officer viewed the Foundation as important to the development of St. Kitts and Nevis. “SIDF has already invested half-a-billion dollars into the economy since its inception, most of it over the last few years since we started operating out of our offices at The Sands Complex. These are all programs geared toward improving standards of living and quality of life for all nationals in the Federation. That is really our key driver,’said Crossman. He was cognizant of the need to build sustainability into the SIDF operations, noting that the organization’s primary source of funding, the Citizenship by Investment Program, may not be as robust in years to come. He believes that a balance is necessary. “It’s a mix. We have made investments in Christophe Harbour, in Kittitian Hill, and we are about to make some key investments in some other initiatives that you’ll be hearing about shortly. Those are really meant to provide the sustainability component to the program, because we recognize that we may not always have the fortune that we are having today. “We must be mindful of that and make provision for tomorrow. But, in addition to that, we’re still striking that balance between how do we reasonably take care of people and make sure that people benefit, and at the same time provide sustainability. So, it’s a balance,”Crossman explained. Three programs were officially launched on July 4, at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort. In attendance were university students and graduates, banking officials and interested persons. Launched were programs with the acronyms FREESH, GRASP and HELP. These stand for, respectively, the Fund for the Realization of Economic Empowerment through Subsidized Housing, the Graduate Relief Assistance Student Program and the Housing Enhancement Loan Program. FREESH is geared toward nationals who are constructing new homes. An official of SIDF described the initiative as ” designed to encourage investment in residential housing to help stimulate the construction sector of the economy and improve the quality of housing in the Federation”. Approved applicants would receive a loan of up to $500,000 to build or complete their homes at a fixed 5 percent rate of interest. GRASP focuses on the Federation’s college or university graduates of the last four years. It involves a loan-financing package that enables them to refinance existing student loans and build or purchase a house. It was explained that graduates must have full-time employment, could acquire land upon which the house is to be built and may purchase a vehicle that does not exceed $50,000. HELP targets citizens who intend to do repairs, remodeling or extensions to their homes. Successful applicants can get a loan of up to $100,000 to be repaid during a period up to 10 years. The interest rate is fixed at 6 percent, and applicants may refinance mortgages up to 50 percent of the borrowed amount. Speaking specifically on the graduate student loan program, Crossman talked about how the initiative could benefit young applicants. “For those who have student loans, we know their life is very much restricted in terms of what they can reasonably do. We expect that on this program (GRASP), students who would not have dreamt of owning a home, they can now participate in home ownership at a much earlier time than they would have otherwise. “It is also a change, in some ways, of the way people view home ownership. I think traditionally we see home ownership as, ‘I’m going to wait until I’m forty.’ This is really, for some, a starter home, and as income increases over time, they can sell that home and get into another, all the while building up equity in the home as you go along, as opposed to simply paying a student loan.”The SIDF is an approved project and beneficiary of the St. Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Program, which was established in 2006 to help diversify the economy out of a monocultural economy that was based on sugar production.