For the last three days Barbados was the centre of attention in Caribbean and Latin American small business circles.
Probably to the envy of many of its regional counterparts, the island attracted more than 1,000 participants as it became the first English-speaking Caribbean country to host the Inter-American Forum on Micro-enterprise, better known as FOROMIC.
The event was organised by Government and the Multilateral Investment Fund an Inter-American Development Bank affiliate and already Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Chris Sinckler is declaring the event a success,
“A wealth of information has been provided which will lead to many improvements in the area of micro-finance and by extension, to improvements for business,” he said at last evening’s official closing ceremony at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
We will not question the minister’s judgment or the sincerity of his words, but do think that, as far as Barbados’ micro and small businesses are concerned, it is too early to declare the ultimate success of the conference.
That will partly be determined by the type of environment and assistance, many of these struggling enterprises, currently struggling to survive, will be offered in the months and years to come.
Undeniably, however, there would have been some obvious benefits.
In the case of Barbados as a holiday destination, it was a plus that hundreds of individuals visited the island for the first time, and if their experiences here over three days was as positive as reports suggest, that is potentially good news for tourism.
Another bit of good news was the fact that many Barbadian small entrepreneurs would have benefitted from the various networking opportunities in discussions with their colleagues from throughout the region.
As a result of the conference, Government would also now be more better placed to know the real needs of the island’s small business and what is needed to ensure they not only survived, but thrived. Of note is that while Sinckler and others loudly sang the meeting’s praises there was one major dissenting voice, that of Barbados Small Business Association CEO Lynette Holder. She praised aspects of the conference, but was concerned about the content of plenary session as they related to local small businesses. Holder also said the sector she represented was also now better off in terms of knowing how to access funding from the MIF. All of the plaudits aside, this latter point is one Sinckler and others should bear in mind. As the IDB’s President Luis Alberto Moreno reminded on day one of FOROMIC, while SMEs in this part of the world pointed to a number of barriers to their success, accessing finance was “the main obstacle”. Sinckler and others involved will now have to convince Holder and her members that solving this protracted problem will be one of the successes of the large gathering of minds in Barbados.