Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland is giving the assurance that Government will do all it can to create the right policies to help entrepreneurs develop their operations and become more competitive globally.
He made the promise as he welcomed one of the island’s latest vehicle care companies – Shine Automotive – located at the Carlton Complex, Black Rock on Wednesday evening. The new business, owned by Dario Greenidge, consists of a retail store and car wash service.
Sutherland pointed out that micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) were responsible for about 40 per cent of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP), and the current administration would ensure the sector’s survival.
He argued that there were too many “un-bankable” entrepreneurs who found it difficult to access funding from the traditional banking system due to a lack of collateral or the perceived risk.
“The banks want to make sure that they get back their money when they lend you and if the banks are not comfortable and satisfied you can pay back the loan…someone like Dario washing cars, I don’t think that the bank would want to see Dario because we don’t know how many people are going to come through Dario’s business on a daily basis when he starts out,” said Sutherland.
However, he lauded the government funding agency, FundAccess, for providing necessary financing for Greenidge to “live his dream and ensure it becomes a reality today”.
As at August 2019, FundAccess had approved just over 2 000 loans and loaned $64.4 million, which it said helped to create some 2 411 job opportunities.
Pointing to other funding schemes and business development agencies provided by Government to help current and aspiring entrepreneurs, Sutherland said Government wanted those individuals to move from the informal stage to a point where they can attract investment.
“One of the things that Government is working on is a partnership with the Barbados Stock Exchange to create what we call the Junior Stock Market, the innovation and growth market, where those businesses will have opportunities to have investors,” the Minister said.
“We want to create the regulatory environment where investors can own up to 30 per cent of your business once you have a capitalization of $200 000 and up.”
Pointing to the M-Pesa mobile phone-based fintech solution in Kenya, Sutherland said it was Government’s intention to create the right regulatory space to partner with “someone to provide that level of digital money whereby persons can utilize their card services and their phone to pay for services in this country”.
Calling on entrepreneurs to utilize digital payment systems more, he said that could help bring people out of poverty and safeguard against theft.
“I am calling on the telecoms companies to join Government to create that digital wallet whereby we can show the banking sector that we have a financial services sector that can take those working class persons, those in the MSME and those with the great minds and ideas who are un-bankable but we can create the environment whereby we can allow them to pay for services online and create a wonderful credit profile,” said Sutherland.
“In order to see ourselves as world-class, we have to move away from paying for goods and services with dollars and cents and start using digital currency and mobile wallets.”
Sharing the story of how he got started in 2010 by washing cars, Greenidge said that besides the recession, he was faced with not being able to access funds from the traditional banking system since they saw his business as “risk and not opportunity”.
He expressed disappointment that banks were not supportive of the “black entrepreneur who needs that little support or that little nudge”.
“I always think that as a young entrepreneur and someone with energy, finesse, idea and a dream, we should be getting the support from the commercial banks and credit unions before we even have to attempt to go into the doors of FundAccess and the Trust Loan Fund, mainly because the banks are liquid with all of our money,” said Greenidge.
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