A new group representing the interests of micro and small enterprises in Barbados has thrown out a challenge to Government to make it easier for businesses in this sector to survive.
President of the Bajan Alliance of Businesses (BAB) Nicole Johnson complained that a lack of accessible financial assistance has been made worse with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, leaving some micro and small businesses to die a “painful and silent death”, even as big businesses continue to get a hand up.
Johnson, who was addressing the virtual inauguration ceremony for the alliance on Friday, also suggested that people in authority were using their power to keep some businesses “down”.
“If the economy of Barbados is to bounce back effectively it needs entrepreneurs to emerge, people who are bold enough to step into deep waters and prepare to swim for their lives, and the Bajan Alliance of Businesses hopes to have that branch to help each business to survive,” she said.
“Unfortunately, we are cognizant that our social and economic structures and systems have made it difficult for businesses in general to survive. Larger enterprises seem to have all the support to help them continue, but even a typical small loan is difficult to acquire as a small business. In addition, it is worth noting that some of our people who are entrusted with a degree of power and authority use that power and authority to keep each other down
“As a result, small businesses often fail on many levels. We hope that we would gain the full support of the Government of Barbados as we seek assistance for our members in building solid businesses that would rebound to a robust economy,” said Johnson.
She said financial assistance was the number one need of the sector at this time, admitting that while financial institutions were often quick to turn down micro and small businesses from getting a loan, some of the businesses were guilty of not having the proper structures in place.
In his address, Minister of Small Business Kerrie Symmonds pledged Government’s support while indicating that the survival of micro and small businesses will also depend heavily on their “willingness to evolve and adapt”.
He said Government was willing and prepared to help all levels of businesses survive and to ensure their future viability. Adding that the pandemic has been a major “game changer” for all, Symmonds suggested that it forced businesses to make changes they did not think possible or viable.
“I want to suggest to you that it is your willingness as entrepreneurs to evolve and to adapt that lies at the core of your success . . . Equally, any future success you have will be your ability and your willingness to continue irrespective of what policy prescription I might come up with as a minister, regardless of what legislative or institutional reform the Government may implement, all will fail if you as the entrepreneur are not willing to constantly reassess and reevaluate where you stand and how you do those things you do so as to ensure you continue to evolve and adapt and remain relevant in the marketplace,” he said.
Nevertheless, Symmonds said he believed it was his duty as minister with responsibility for the small business sector and that of Government to partner with officials in the sector to ensure they continued to grow.
“We want for example, with respect to micro-businesses, that they become small businesses. We want for small businesses to become medium-sized businesses and ultimately reach an export level platform. That ideally is the target we wish to promote,” said Symmonds.
He admitted that Government, though having the best intentions, “may not live up to expectations”.
However, he said: “I want to know when you feel that happens . . . feel free to let me hear so that I can sit down with my folks and let them hear and then let us see what we can do to make it better, because at the end of the day nobody feels it other than the person who is feeling it.”
Symmonds pointed to a range of technical assistance that was being provided by Government to the sector as he urged businesses to take advantage of them.
The new small business alliance is described by Johnson as a melting pot of dynamic and resilient business professionals from several sectors who aim to “work together to help build each other through professional business fraternization and referral opportunities”.
“We aim to be an organisation of business people who look out for each others’ businesses, operating by the highest degree of professionalism, integrity and sound business standards and practices,” said Johnson.
“The time has come for us to stop tearing each other down and for jealousy to take a back seat,” she said. (MM)