The body which represents Barbados’ small businesses wants Government to move “swiftly” and introduce promised measures to help the sector.
While congratulating the Freundel Stuart Administration on its recent re-election, the Small Business Association said there were a number of agenda items highlighted by the Democratic Labour Party Government which it agreed with and wanted officials to implement as soon as possible.
“Notwithstanding the challenges that lay ahead, the SBA is keenly looking forward to several of the Government’s plans which are in perfect synchronicity with the focus of the SBA,” the organisation said in this month’s edition of its Outlook newsletter.
“These areas include, fostering entrepreneurship in primary and secondary schools, working on developing the renewable energy sector, the incentives to businesses to develop e-commerce, the upgrading on e-government to facilitate payments, corporate staff training, and assisting ‘small businesses in meeting international standards to facilitate growth in exports’.
“These are but a few of the critical areas which we feel will help to stimulate the SME sector and create that culture of entrepreneurship that Barbados so desperately needs. The SBA encourages the new government to move swiftly to put these measures into place for the good of the economy and the future development of Barbados,” it added.
SBA officials also said Barbados “has emerged from a national election ready to get back to work”, and they were pleased “that Barbados remains one of the few countries where ‘observers’ are not required”, saying this “speaks to the efficiency and transparency of our democratic system and the maturity of our people as a whole”.
In her own commentary in the same publication, SBA CEO, Lynette Holder, raised concern about “the slow development and the absence of incentives for the establishment of a strong e-commerce system in Barbados”.
“My concern rests in the fact that while commercial banks have been painfully slow at setting up facilities for customers to complete personal transactions online, very little progress seems to have been made with the provision of an e-commerce platform to allow businesses, particularly SMEs, to capitalise on consumer markets within Barbados and outside of the country,” she said.
“The Global Competitiveness Index 2012-2013 ranks Barbados’ level of sophistication at number 38 out of 144 countries and its Business Sophistication is ranked at 36. Yet surprisingly while our Financial Market Development and Technology Readiness are ranked higher (33 and 30 respectively) very little has changed since 2007 when the Minister of Commerce, Consumer Affairs & Business Development expressed displeasure at the difficulty of small businesses in ‘accessing the e-commerce services banks say they provide’.
“Yes there are concerns for security, and foreign exchange, but I would have believed that by now the financial institutions would have developed the infrastructure to enable local businesses to trade their goods and services on the internet. Barbadians are already e-commerce savvy, yet our SMEs have to seek third party solutions to conduct commerce. Are our banks therefore anti e-commerce with respect to SMEs and thus creating the lag?” she asked. (SC)