Microcredit helps cushion Jamaicans in harsh economic times

17 Aug 2009

Rose Marie Gayle, en su negocio en JamaicaKingston, Jamaica - Rose Marie Gayle received a US$200 micro loan that helped her expand her small business selling sweets, juice and phone cards outside a high school in Kingston.

Following a longtime customer’s suggestion, Rose Marie visited the Kingston and St. Andrew Action Forum – a civil society organization with offices in 72 communities in Jamaica’s capital city – to learn more about the loan initiative. In May 2009, she received the equivalent of US$232 ($20,000 Jamaican dollars), which enabled her to buy more goods, and to sell new items customers had been asking for, such as cold beverages.

To her surprise, business boomed, and she was able to repay her loan in two months – a month before the due date. 

“I’m grateful to God for being fortunate enough to receive the loan and for having the means to pay it back,” said Rose Marie, who is mother of five, and whose husband helps run her business. “With the additional funds, I purchased other more expensive goods that I wasn’t selling before, such as soft drinks, for example. I even bought a cooler that now keeps sodas and juices ice-cold.  And I painted and refurbished the stall to make it more attractive,” she said, proudly.

The investment attracted more customers. And now she is selling more sweets and cold refreshments than ever

“My community likes me; I have loyal customers that provide me with constant business. I’m very proud of my business and of how successful it has proven to be. I love my customers and I show them this by being enthusiastic and happy whenever anyone visits my stall.”

“I’m also very lucky because the current economic crisis has not affected my business,” she said.

Rose Marie con sus clientes en JamaicaRose Marie Gayle’s story shows how access to micro credit can help sustain a small business even during harsh economic times – particularly in hard-hit countries like Jamaica.  From January 2008 to January 2009, remittance payments from Jamaicans living abroad fell 10 percent, tourism fell by 5 percent and exports plummeted by 13 per cent.

“It is particularly in times of economic slowdown that the most vulnerable – businesses and people – need support,” said Machel Stewart, Poverty Reduction Programme Specialist at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Jamaica. “Studies show that microcredit is effective in times of crisis, either by helping keep small business running, avoiding job losses; or as an alternative for those who lost their jobs due to the recession: it’s a possibility to start a micro business – a chance to reinvent oneself.”

UNDP is playing a key coordinating role in the response to the crisis in Jamaica, mobilizing resources for rapid deployment of assistance to those most affected by the fallout. That has made $170 million available there, to support development interventions to strengthen small enterprises, create job opportunities and bolster social programs.

UNDP is also supports the government of Jamaica by providing technical assistance to help the country reduce its national debt, and to strengthen its social and economic development programs.