Minister's Address - Small Business Week 2020

Members of the small business community, fellow Barbadians, ever so often life presents itself as a seeming irony. On occasion, the celebration of events considered important to us has to be coupled with sober reflection on the challenges of our immediate circumstances.

It is this paradox with which Small Business Week 2020 greets us, as together we grapple with the debilitating impact meted out to the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) sector, resulting from the unimaginable emergence of the global Coronavirus (COVID) 19 pandemic.

This year’s events have confirmed that irrespective of where we are located around the world, neither entrepreneurship nor MSME development are for the faint of heart.  Instead, these endeavors require commitment, dedication, courage and persistence.  As stakeholders within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, we must be resolved to ensure that our efforts at advancing this very important sector are neither shrouded in self-doubt nor in self-defeatism. 

MP.KS1

(Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, the Hon. Kerrie Symmonds MP)

The Government of Barbados, through my Ministry, will therefore continue to make strident steps in creating an enabling environment that is characterized by inclusivity and growth and that will also allow for the maximization of opportunities for all those desirous of contributing to a refocused entrepreneurial sector.

It is with this in mind, that I underscore the importance of the theme for Small Business Week 2020, namely, “The era of digital disruption – thinking beyond the box”. This theme serves as a reminder that a number of critical avenues must be pursued, if there is to be greater success along this entrepreneurial journey. Among these are the fact that to compete in this digital era, firms will need to review and in some cases revise their operating models every 18-24 months. While for some firms that pace of change may seem impossible, their very survival in today’s world depends on it. It will require the implementation of practical strategies and frameworks to increase entrepreneurial agility so that these businesses can evolve their operating models continuously and also unlock the full potential of their business life cycle.

Digital disruption is real, it is happening now, and it is fundamentally challenging and changing the way in which organizations will be required to compete both now and in decades to come. Those who choose not to be transformational today, will quickly face the prospect of extinction tomorrow. As a result, there must be an urgent understanding that going “digital” is much more than the effective use of technology, but rather, it is a new way of life, in which we all need to be prepared to participate. The question to be asked, is does the orthodox thinking of a bricks and mortar strategy suffice or does that now have to be complimented by digital marketing, electronic commerce and electronic payments solutions platforms? There’s a vast world of business strategy that now needs to be mastered by business operators and consumers alike and this new frontier begins with, and necessitates, the provision of ample guidance for the digitally unprepared so as to better position them to seize the myriad opportunities that await the entrepreneurially fit.

This government, therefore remains cognizant of its responsibility to demonstrate situational awareness of the needs of the MSME sector and to position itself to respond in a timely, efficient and effective manner to the challenges faced by those businesses that have been disrupted and dislocated because of the ongoing saga of the COVID 19 pandemic.

To this end, the Ministry of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship will shortly execute its Post COVID 19 Sustainable Plan which will allow the agencies under its remit to positively assist those businesses that have been severely impacted by this pandemic with a lifeline of both financial and technical assistance to enable their survival and to enhance their competitiveness.  Further, the Ministry will shortly be launching the National Financial Literacy initiative which is intended to facilitate the sustainability and the life-long success of businesses, individuals and households. Through this initiative, a series of Financial Literacy Satellite Clinics will be held across the length and breadth of Barbados to promote and encourage sound financial management as a way of life that can positively impact all levels of society as well as to promote inter-generational wealth creation among MSMEs. A virtual programme version of these training modules will also be implemented.

The Ministry will also facilitate the development of a National MSME Act by March 2021.  This will create the legislative space to facilitate, incentivize and promote a more competitive and innovative MSME sector while affording MSMEs a suite of relevant incentives to positively impact their sustainability and growth. 

In an effort to work collaboratively to combat the vagaries of the covid 19 pandemic, the Ministry will also pursue the development of a community business cluster initiative which will be executed in consort with a business cooperative framework to ensure that Barbadian small businesses can help each other to survive during these toughest of times. 

The Ministry continues to work with the Barbados Stock Exchange and the Small Business Association to develop a Junior Stock Market to afford MSMEs greater access to finance through the capital market. This will be further complemented by the establishment of a Collateral Registry to allow MSMEs to benefit from an online Registry where they can register charges and collateral created by borrowers to secure credit facilities provided by lenders. The Collateral Registry will provide online registration of security interests in immovable assets pledged as collateral. This ground breaking approach is intended to stimulate the use of movable property as security interest in order to increase MSME’s access to credit.

Going forward, a niche must be also carved out for the MSME sector to benefit more significantly from Government’s policy prescriptions to build-out the renewable energy sector. In this regard, efforts of MSMEs to leverage these opportunities as well as to strategically build-out other national priority sectors including the ICT, the Creative sector, Agri-business, and Tourism niches such as health and wellness, sports and community-based tourism will be facilitated to the fullest extent possible.  So that all of these activities can be further developed and moved to an export platform.

While our micro, small and medium-sized enterprises have been given a terrible blow, we as people must never surrender. Our goal must be to bind even closer together at this critical juncture, for defeat is not an option

 

As we look to the future, let us therefore commit to helping the most vulnerable among us since we are as strong as our weakest link.  In closing let us look up to the One who best understands and can change our plight for the better. It is therefore for this reason that I take courage from the words of our National anthem which reminds us “The Lord has been the people's guide for past three hundred years, with him still on the people's side we have no doubts or fears, Upward and onward we shall go Inspired, exulting, free, and greater will our nation grow in strength and unity.”  Let us therefore think beyond the box and allow our disruptive technologies to advance our better cause. I thank you!