(PRESS SEC) — Venezuela’s donation of 50 “petrocasas” houses to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis further cements the two countries’ longstanding diplomatic relationship, which is enjoying an excellent run under Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris’ Team Unity administration.
Nicolás Maduro, who was sworn in as the new Venezuelan President on April 19th, 2013 – succeeding the late President Hugo Chávez – made his inaugural visit to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015.
“It is a distinct honour for me to welcome the President to the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis,” Prime Minister Harris said then, adding: “Mr. President, your visit here highlights a major strategic approach of the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis’ foreign policy outlook of boosting relations with our friends with whom we share a long history of friendship, while simultaneously forging new alliances.”
“We have done a lot, but as I said to my brother Timothy Harris, there’s still a lot to do in the future,” the Venezuelan President said during his visit, which saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two countries. The MOU paved the way for enhanced bilateral relations in agriculture, education and training, energy, healthcare, housing, infrastructure, and law and order.
Within the past two years, Venezuela has assisted the Team Unity administration with an ECD$16 million grant earmarked for the payment of outstanding gratuities to former sugar workers and a USD$6 million loan secured through Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) St. Kitts-Nevis Limited to help fund the Fresh Start financing program.
During a ceremony that took place on September 23rd in front of the Sugar Workers Restoration Fund Secretariat on South Independence Square Street, President Nicolás Maduro personally presented cheques to Mr. Samuel Wilson and Ms. Vivian Hope, two former sugar workers.
As at the 1st of February this year, 2,003 former sugar workers (or their beneficiaries) had been paid outstanding gratuities in the amount of ECD$13.05 million.
Approximately ECD$28.5 million has been disbursed to more than 400 successful applicants – 100 of whom are in Nevis – through the Fresh Start financing program. Additionally, for the year 2017, the Team Unity Government has allocated ECD$35.4 million to be disbursed through the Fresh Start.
The Fresh Start program, which is administered through the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis, provides concessionary loans and technical assistance to entrepreneurs so that they can either start or expand their micro, small and medium-sized businesses.