Unhappy with the level of development assistance that the small and micro enterprise (SME) sector is getting, Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss has ordered a review of the lending policy at the state-run Fund Access.
“It would be sad if a state-owned agency that is responsible for lending to the sector adopts the same stringent rules as the commercial banks in the country and therefore makes it equally difficult for micro and small and even proprietors to engage in business,” Inniss today told the official launch of the Small Business Association’s (SBA) week of activities and Solar Express project in National Heroes Square.
While stressing the need for the small and micro business sector “to have a little bit easier access to financing to get the businesses up and going”, Inniss revealed that earlier this week he had directed the board of Fund Access to revisit their lending policies with a view to ensuring that “we have a greater level of flexibility and are able to, in short order, advance funds to the micro and small enterprise sector to ensure that we are able to achieve the things we want to achieve to get businesses up and running”.
The directive comes mere months after Government ended its $2.5 million annual subsidy to Fund Access, which between 1998 and 2016 approved 1,706 loans totalling just over $51 million.
Urging Barbadians to buy more locally produced items in order to give more support to the sector, Inniss said in coming weeks his ministry, in conjunction with the SBA, would embark on a few initiatives to help grow the SME sector, which he believed had the potential to grow the economy.
“This sector is really what is going to turn this country around. We spend a lot of time in Barbados speaking negatively about the state of the economy and all the doom and gloom, but I really think we must be a little bit more positive in our society and celebrate those who are working hard,” the small business minister said, while suggesting that during harsh economic times, Barbadians were more willing to start their own businesses.
Small business week runs from September 24 to 30 under the theme Exploring a New Paradigm For the Survival of SMEs.
SBA President Dean Straker said the focus of the week will be on the economic challenges facing the sector and opportunities for growth.
Among the activities planned are the annual lecture, a youth forum and showcase, bus tour and a 20/20 cricket match.
The Solar Express project will also see to the introduction of two 10-seater solar electric vehicles operating in and around the Bridgetown area offering tours of Historic Bridgetown.