Barbadians will soon be more empowered to take their financial literacy into their own hands when they participate in a number of clinics with the launch of the Financial Literacy Bureau (FLB) in the coming weeks.
Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds, said too many Barbadians had started businesses without understanding how to write business or marketing plans, or the various investment opportunities that were available, and the FLB would assist in this regard.
The Minister was speaking on Monday to representatives from the media who attended a sensitisation session at Baobab Tower, Warrens, St. Michael.
Mr. Symmonds reasoned that the Ministry was cognisant of the need to help citizens understand how to manage debt wisely.
This, he explained, was based on requests from small and micro business entrepreneurs who approached them and received assistance to prevent them from falling into insolvency and bankruptcy as a result of challenges associated with not managing debt wisely.
He further noted: “People need to understand what it is to refinance a mortgage…There has to be a move towards making the entire country conversant about things like equity and angel investment and financing via those routes and also by way of bonds and trading in bonds, so it is a broad-based approach that we are taking.”
He also addressed the need to educate Barbadians about sound financial management and practices in light of notices in the media warning about pyramid schemes/online trading schemes.
“A part of this is going to be building a culture in the country where there is a better understanding of sound financial management practices and decisions. I think that sometimes, even when people believe that they have had the training, and may be at high levels of the community, they are consumed with greed. They see interest rates that are exceptionally attractive and they feel that you should go after that and you don’t stop to think it through but you just take a risk and then find yourself in confusion.”
The Minister continued: “There have been instances in not so far away times where major institutions in this country have [collapsed] as a result of that so it happens in a capitalist society. …There is a need to make people sufficiently empowered that they can make sound financial decisions against the very best advice and consideration. Beyond that I do not think a country can do any more.”
Meanwhile, Technical Advisor in the Ministry, David Simpson, expressed a similar thought about pyramid schemes and suggested that persons needed to do the “right due diligence” regarding a savings instrument.
“These things that are circulating currently in society can be determined by the public to be an avenue for legitimate savings and investment and not just a quick return as the Minister is referring to and that is the determinant that we need to sensitise people to. The same way people would complain about going into a bank or credit union [which] saw them as too risky and didn’t want to lend, they have to adopt a similar approach before they put their money into the hands of strangers just for that quick return.”
He said it was the Ministry’s duty to sensitise the public to differentiate between legitimate savings and pyramid schemes and one of the topics to be discussed in the bureau is Investments and Savings and Making Wise Decisions.
When rolled out, the FLB will be manned by volunteers in the first instance and, when physically constituted, there will be six to eight staff members at various levels charged with facilitating Marketing and Public Relations, training and other duties.