The small shall lead them.
That is the message Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Sir Dwight Venner has taken to Barbados’ small businesses, as he declared that they would have a major role to play in economic recovery.
“It is not going to come from big behemoth companies, it’s going to be small people who have the space to innovate, and the incentives and the support to do that. So that is why I would put my money on the small firms,” he said as he addressed the Sixth Annual Leo Leacock Memorial Lecture on Small Business As An Elixir For Economic Recovery on Monday night at the Errol Barrow Centre For Creative Imagination.
But the man who has for 25 years headed a central bank that presides over the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, said small businesses in the region would have to make some changes.
Sir Dwight said that, as it stands, they do not turn around their businesses fast enough.
Noting that the Caribbean lags behind the world in emerging from the global financial crisis of 2008, he said the dominance of large enterprises would be a thing of the past.
“Going forward it is not going to be a monopoly of a few people, whether it is Government or whatever. In summary, we will have to change the game plan on the way forward as we face the most fundamental challenges that have confronted us since independence,” he said.
“This does not mean that we must throw out the baby with the bath water. It does mean that we must enter into a phase of sober reflection on our current state of how we got here, and to extract the positive from what has to be seen as a socio-economic reality check.”
Among the changes Sir Dwight believes are needed in Caribbean business for there to be real forward movement, is the recognition that the region comprises many small communities, and their strength is in pooling the numbers.
“That is the critical mass issue which keeps rearing its head as the reason why we have been progressing so slowly in this region,” he said.
“In the arithmetic of things in the Caribbean, we are more wedded to division and subtraction, than addition and multiplication. Addition and multiplication are positive sums, the other two are negative sums. Critical mass is what cuts it. We must begin to mobilize the entrepreneurs of the region from the very early stages, and the existing business organizations such as the SBA [Small Business Association] must be in the vanguard.
“A comprehensive census needs to be taken of the entire business community, including the informal sector. If we do not know who constitutes the sector, then we will not know who we have to work with, and what potential they have,” Sir Dwight added.
The leading Caribbean financial administrator stressed the benefits of grouping resources among small businesses.
“Collective action and networking add considerable value to enterprises. The value proposition comes from the ability to source things in bulk, to jointly manufacture products, to engage in scientific research. The value proposition of collective action is somewhat like the supply of electricity. If it is cut off then you really appreciate the service,” he said.
Meantime, even with his declared faith in small and medium sized enterprises in the Caribbean as recession busters, Sir Dwight also singled out Barbados’ Goddard conglomerate and Sagicor Financial Services as companies that have proven themselves to be pathfinders to economic recovery.