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After years of complaints about the paucity of information on the small business sector, technocrats now have a vital tool to assist them with tracking and managing its performance in totality.

Last Monday, March 31, the National Sector Management Database for the small and medium-sized businesses was officially launched in the Small Business Development Centre’s Training Room, Fontabelle, St. Michael. The database, which is part of a wider Pan-Caribbean Small Medium Enterprise and phase two of the Information Communication Technology Competitiveness Programme, is sponsored by the Commonwealth Secretariat, on behalf of seven Caribbean member countries.

In outlining the benefits of the system, the Ministry of Trade’s Chief Business Development Officer, Francine Blackman, said the facility would improve the competitiveness of the industry through information sharing. 

She also stated that “we could no longer formulate policies for the sector based on ‘guesstimates’. So, we could not continue to operate this way in the 21st century and that is why it was necessary to continuously update the information,” Ms Blackman said.

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Carson Browne, who delivered the feature address on behalf of Minister Dr. David Estwick, said that the system would allow for the generation of statistical information to effect better economic planning for these types of businesses. Another feature of the database, he said was the identification of potential networks, clusters and joint ventures to spur on competitiveness.

The official further stated that the system would also facilitate the management of the supply chain that would not only promote economies of scale, but, also lead to a reduction in the cost of doing business across the region. Of equal importance, the Government official said, was the management of a loan and grant facilities component to bring the defaulters’ accounts up-to-date.

Mr. Browne also urged business persons to let the sector be “the hub which hinges the hope for reviving the modern economy – a critical factor which has become more relevant in the economic climate which we face”.

He further stated that: “I am heartened by your commitment towards ensuring that Barbados’ small and medium enterprise sectors remain a competitive option for sustained economic development, and by extension, the economic prosperity of our citizenry.”

Noting that the initiative was critical to achieving Government’s objectives, the official made an appeal for greater transparency in the information gathering process.  “The time is right for the relaxing of some of those impediments which have precluded access to critical business information located within your agencies.”

Mr. Browne further pointed out that: “While we laud its possibilities, the database will not survive past any such policy initiatives informed by the hoarding of basic information. The Senior Government Official warned that any organisation which chose not to share information would eventually “lose its relevance and limit its success.”  

“Let me affirm Government’s recognition of the sector’s contribution towards national development by ensuring that it is well placed to be among the leading sectors of this economy,” he stressed.

The Barbados-leg of the programme commenced during the period July 18 to 22, 2007, with the training of 13 network brokers and facilitators. In phase two of the programme, an additional three persons from the OECS received training last March. 
The information gathered will be kept in the strictest confidence and used to promote best practices throughout the sector.

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