Head office of the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis on the corner of Church and Central Streets in downtown Basseterre.

The Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis was established by Government to facilitate better coordination of Government policy initiatives to sectors that had previously been underserved by existing financial institutions, according to Prime Minister and Minister of Finance with responsibility for the Development Bank, Dr. Timothy Harris.

Appearing the on 10th edition of Leadership Matters, a virtual forum series, on ZIZ TV, Dr Harris made the remarks in answer to a caller who had requested if some of the money for home-ownership at the Development Bank could also be made available at the St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank to give persons flexibility to work with whichever bank they may choose to.

“The matter of the role of National Bank is a significant one vis-a-vis the Development Bank,” said Prime Minister Harris. “Some of the issues that drive the choice of institution are related to the ease with which policy can be implemented. Development Bank was created to facilitate better coordination of Government policy initiatives to sectors that had hitherto been underserved by existing financial institutions.”

He reminded the listening public, following the series on various local radio stations and social media platforms, not to forget the history of Development Banks throughout the Caribbean as they were organised as instruments to come to the aid of persons whose requests could not be responded with the same agility and flexibility in relation to some of the initiatives Governments would have taken.

“When we, for example, introduce a Fresh Start Programme we can say to Development Bank we want you to run this programme and we say that we do not want the interest rate to be higher than x per cent,” observed the Minister of Finance. “It is difficult to give that kind of dictate, direction, and guidance to commercial banks as they operate under a different set of paradigm and a different set of policy prescriptions.”

Some jurisdictions, explained Dr Harris, have developed Agricultural Development Banks because they recognise their agricultural sector is underserved, as it is difficult for farmers to get loans from commercial banks. He observed that not many farmers have been given loans by those institutions as they (banks) have not been as readily responsive to some of the dictates of nation-building as a Development Bank would be.

“The Development Banks throughout the region were created for that purpose – to insert into the economic life new entrants, new people who hitherto were not well served,” advised Dr Harris. “We certainly will continue always to review Government policy sensitive to the evolution of times and the evolution of interest in terms of the instruments that are being used to aid our policy development.”

Earlier on in the Leadership Matters programme, Prime Minister Harris had indicated that over that last five years a record number of business licenses had been issued, with a record number of loans given to small businesses as a result of the Fresh Start Loan Programme, which is administered by the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis.

The Fresh Start Programme was launched in September 2015 aimed at offering loans to operators of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Federation. When Prime Minister Harris announced Government’s stimulus package on March 24 this year as Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, he said Government would provide support to small businesses via the Fresh Start Programme with a tranche of $5 million.

“We also announced that for the medium term we would want to jump-start construction and in this regard, we pledged $30 million to support through those who were interested in home financing via the aegis of Development Bank,” said the Honourable Prime Minister.

The Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis was established by an Act of Parliament NO. 1 of 1981. The Act was further amended in April of 1983 by Parliament.

The Bank which is wholly owned by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis, operates as an autonomous entity and operates independently with a Board of Directors, Chief Executive Officer, and a team of staff members. It has its headquarters at the corner of Central and Church Streets in Basseterre and a branch office at Ward Building, Stoney Grove, on the Island Main Road in Nevis.