A raft of several major initiatives are to be rolled out to boost micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) while bringing more of them into the formal economy, Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland has promised.
Declaring the Mottley administration’s commitment to the notion of stimulating the economy by spreading and creating new wealth, Sutherland announced a “comprehensive suite of policy and legislative initiatives” would be rolled out through his ministry to create a better enabling environment for entrepreneurship and small businesses in Barbados.
“The ultimate aim is to create wealth through the empowerment of local entrepreneurs and in doing so, cultivate an entrepreneur ethos that is nationally pervasive and driven by international foresight,” said Sutherland. “This is our way of transforming the Barbadian economy – using an innovative strategy that is centred around investment in the skills, ideas and the endeavours of the ordinary Barbadians.”
He said the Trust Loan Fund was only one of the “enablers” that Government had implemented to help grow the MSME community.
He said the Mottley administration was hoping to roll out a promised financial literacy bureau initiative with the scheduling of several financial literacy clinics at schools and community centres to help Barbadians improve their money management.
Sutherland said: “It will target the youth from as early as primary school, the households and businesses, through training. And it will promote financial literacy as a way of life among all Barbadians and as a means of charting a path for the creation of sustainable businesses and intergenerational wealth for time to come.”
He said a consultation was held with stakeholders and private sector figures to review a proposed implementation plan and once that plan was approved later this week by Cabinet, the literacy bureau would be promoted during the month of August with training to begin in September.
The development of the much-talked-about junior stock market was still on the cards, as well as establishment of a collateral registry that would allow for moveable assets to be listed as collateral, he said.
“So when we create this collateral registry you have the opportunity then to become formal. You can apply for a loan,” said Sutherland.
He further pointed out that a “micro, small and medium-sized enterprise cluster strategy” was being developed “to encourage related businesses to network, collaborate and mitigate the inherent challenges currently experienced by stand-alone businesses that often result in business failure.
The Minister for Small Business said: “As you cluster and as we bring forward (that) collateral registry whereby your equipment and moveable assets can be seen as collateral, that is about building business and bringing you from the informal to the formal sector where you are recognized as a viable entity and you can take your rightful place in the economic landscape in this country.”
Government is also in the final stages of repealing the Liquor Licence Act to shorten the time it takes to obtain a liquor licence and to offer seasonal licences, he added.
Sutherland said he was confident that the SME could become a “catalyst in the recovery of our economy and as the engine of growth to propel the country on a sustainable growth path during the rest of the COVID-19 and post COVID-19”.
He said prior to COVID-19 there were about 9,700 small businesses here employing about 48 per cent of the labour force.
And while he was unable to say how many of those businesses had closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sutherland said: “There is no reason the economic landscape going forward cannot continue to reflect the critical contribution that the small businesses are making to the Barbadian economy”.
He said Government’s aim was to have a strategy to recover and rebuild the economy “and even making it better than what we did before COVID-19.
At the same time, Sutherland said it was critical for MSMEs to take advantage of opportunities to position themselves to grow while using up to date technologies to become more competitive.
He was speaking on Monday during the official opening of the first in a series of customer service and debt and money management workshop put on by the Barbados Trust Fund Ltd in association with the National Conservation Commission.
The two-day workshop is being held at the Christ Church parish church under strict COVID-19 protocols.
Officials said while the first training was primarily for those in the Berinda Cox Fish Market and wider Bay Garden, Oistins area, several participants from other communities were allowed to take part due to the overwhelming demand.
Stressing that training was especially important at this time, Sutherland said he found that one impediment that made small businesses less resilient to crisis was a deficit in financial literacy.
“This is especially so in how some small businesspeople manage money and debt,” he said.