EDITORIAL - Lifeline for small businesses

IN recent times emphasis continues to be placed on financing the development of small businesses in Barbados and the Caribbean.

What is significant about this is that such financing, once the businesses meet the requirements for accessing the funding, will make the entrepreneurs feel more comfortable that their needs are being taken care of.

We are pleased about this simply because these small and micro businesses continue to complain that they are being left out to a large degree by the mainstream financiers. Many of them and those who speak on their behalf make the point that small businesses are not looking for hand outs, but rather, genuine assistance that allows them to proceed with their business development while fulfilling their potential and what is expected of them in these changing economic times.

Just recently, the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) announced the launch of a new initiative known as DAGG – Direct Assistance Grant Scheme. Mrs. Pamela Coke-Hamilton, the Executive Director of CEDA, indicated that the DAGG is one of the agency’s most direct ways of providing support to the CARIFORUM private sector. The money is being made available under the 11th European Development Fund and kudos must go out to the European Union for being a true supporter of the CARIFORUM and development in this region. The record will show that since the onset of the Lome Agreement back in 1975, Europe has provided both financial assistance, project financing and market access for Caribbean products like rice, sugar, bananas, rum, among others. That was scaled down once other countries and non beneficiaries sought to invoke the World Trade Organisation rules about trade preferences and other conditions.

This latest programme to assist small and medium sized businesses is a reimbursement grant funding facility, Mrs. Coke-Hamilton said, noting that it is designed to provide financial
assistance to companies that are exporting or have the potential to export. Companies have previously used the grants to, among other things, update their equipment, meet international food safety standards, participate in international trade shows, improve their packaging and branding and to protect their intellectual property.

This facility could not have come at a better time for countries and more so the private sector to show their full potential. It has long been argued that small businesses have the ability to lift economic growth, development and create jobs, much more so than the bigger established enterprises.

The future for Barbados and other CARIFORUM states will rest very much on private sector enterprises, which has the familiar tune of being the engine of economic growth. Exports of goods and services have to be the way forward for these countries to earn more foreign exchange. This is not a role for the State.

As the situation currently stands, the State therefore cannot do much more except to maintain its traditional support to law and order, social services and similar policies. The State no longer has a role in the economy given that the prevailing view these days is that it does not do a good job in the circumstances.

This gesture on the part of the Europeans and CEDA must be embraced, and with good management and proper direction, can provide that push to our economies.

Barbados Advocate

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