Week in, week out, we make a trip to the barber or hairdresser, take our child to math lessons, buy a snow-cone, get coconut water on the highway, purchase birthday cakes or sweetbread from the neighbourhood baker, pick up an outfit from the seamstress, get our vehicles cleaned by the young men bidding us get a $20 dollar wash.
Then there’s the popular shop keeper, the plant shop, the ‘main man’ mechanic, the boutique, the landscaper and more.
So goes a week in small business – a big private-sector employer of Barbadians. Full stop.
We hardly give it much thought, but across all sectors, enterprising Barbadians daily dare to make it in this world.
Whether it’s a one-man/one-woman show or four employees, from a small home office or vehicle, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) help to keep the wheels of this economy turning.
According to the Small Business Association commissioned study – The State of Small Business in Barbados conducted in 2016 states, “the estimated revenue generated by MSMEs indicates a contribution of 47.5 per cent of the overall $7.3 billion of revenue generated by the private non-agriculture in Barbados.
That is in no way minuscule or insignificant.
We imagine that it has grown over the last three years.
Tomorrow, the nation should get an up-to-date picture when the SBA hosts its State of the Sector Conference as part of its annual Smart Business Week being held under the theme – Small Size, Big Thinking – Changing the Mindset for Global Engagement.
Last year was a tough one for MSMEs.
In its 2017-2018 report, the SBA noted that its members were under pressure as a result of a prolonged economic downturn, which was compounded by tax increases, job losses and reduced work hours for some employees in some cases.
It said: “These conditions were clearly not conducive to business growth and competitiveness, since the increased level of taxation on firms and individuals alike, compounded to reduce disposal income by consumers and high cost of doing business on the part of firms.
“The SBA, therefore, witnessed a decline in membership retention as firms were challenged to maintain their operations opting instead to cut spending on non-critical items, as a cost-saving measure. New membership enrollment was also lower than in previous years and the access to Government subvention and sponsorship support declined as well.”
No doubt some of these challenges linger even as the economy begins to turn the corner.
Our small business advocates have long and loudly called for Governments to implement initiatives that would help MSMEs to contribute more to rebuilding the Barbados economy.
Of course, Issue Number One has always been accessing affordable start-up capital for MSMEs.
Notably, the Mia Mottley administration has made moves to open more doors for small businesses particularly with its $10 million trust loan programme which provides entrepreneurs with $5,000 at a minimal interest rate of 1.5 to two per cent. More than 2,000 loans have been disbursed so far.
However, the SBA which has welcomed the loan programme has signaled that this is a drop in the bucket in a country where Government is promoting enterprise, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship.
Past president of the Small Business Association, Dean Straker, had proposed that Government look at the smaller funds currently available and establish one major fund that can be leveraged to create a pool of $50 million or more to finance entrepreneurial development.
The time has come for the Government to give this recommendation serious thought.
Apart from access to more seed capital, the Government, a major buyer of goods and services, may also want to keep its promise to procure more products from SME’s.
The wheels of Barbadian commerce need even more grease.