Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are being told they have the ability to contribute more significantly to the Barbados economy in the face of ongoing restructuring.
However, President of the Small Business Association (SBA) Wayne Willock said small business operators needed answers to a range of issues that could hinder their progress.
He was addressing the recent graduation ceremony for SBA members of the 2017-2018 training programme at the Grande Salle, Central Bank.
“You are now strategically positioned to make an even more meaningful contribution to Barbados’ restructuring programme,” Willock told the scores of graduands.
“BERT [the Barbados Economic, Recovery and Transformation programme] is upon on us and with each person playing his or her part, a high value society is possible with well-trained and educated personnel in a variety of discipline where skill sets are reengineered by retooling and retraining. Note, however, that knowledge alone is not power. The application of it is,” he said.
Some 313 people graduated after obtaining a score of 80 per cent or more in the entrepreneurial training series, which is in its 10th year.
The students took part in a range of disciplines including public speaking, accounting, human resources management, social media marketing, customer service, quick books and technology studies.
Forty-two of the individuals also received National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in Janitorial Services level II.
Willock encouraged the graduands to use their new competencies to maximize the economic gains for their businesses and the country and to become more innovative and creative in order to “become aligned with global economic trends”.
However, Willock said he was curious to know exactly what was being done in relation to a number of “areas that affect MSME going forward”.
Among his queries was how Government planned to monitor the recently introduced 15 per cent Value Added Tax in online shopping in order to ensure that there was no duplication “where persons have to pay at the buying point and then at the collection point where the other duties will be added”.
“What about the FedEx fees which are still in place? We are yet to hear anything about those. What will be the effect on the same MSMEs which are being touted as the way forward to assist in the country’s economic growth?” he said.
“Will there be adequate procurement from Government to ensure that these newly trained individuals and their businesses have adequate opportunities to show off their talents while maintaining a reasonable profit margin?” he added.
The SBA president also questioned the removal of the minimum interest rate, complaining that commercial banks continued to witness increased profits “while exploiting the hard working citizens of this nation”.
“Finally, why is it that more than 50 per cent of our membership along with other business sectors in the country have found that even though the NSRL [National Social Responsibility Levy] has been removed the cost associated with doing business have not changed?” he queried.
Delivering the feature address at the graduation ceremony, held under the theme Maximizing the Economic Return on Education, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education Senator Romel Springer encouraged the graduands not be daunted by challenges facing the sector.
With the MSMEs said to be contributing more than half the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), Springer said the sector continued to be a major engine for growth.
However, Springer said research had shown that there were two major failures of SMEs in Barbados – inadequate capital and a deficiency of appropriate human resource skills.
“This sector has faced a number of challenges including poor management, weak entrepreneurial skills, poor skills development and a lack of resources to invest in skill development and training. It has also struggled to find the time to allocate to training,” he said.
Pointing out that small businesses already played a “unique” role in Barbados, Springer said he believed they would become “even more important as this country move towards creating opportunities through entrepreneurship”.