Government intends to establish a Ministry of Innovation and Economic Empowerment. This is as part of its commitments to foster an enterprise culture which will enable Barbadians to identify niches in the market and take advantage of them.
Prime Minister David Thompson made this announcement recently as he addressed the National Innovation Awards ceremony at the Barbados Hilton.
According to Mr. Thompson, the current administration will assist in the creation of new enterprises through training, direct subsidies and easier access to capital for investment. This process will be facilitated through several initiatives, including enabling entrepreneurs to access capital through the credit unions and other government supported institutions and setting aside 40 percent of all Government procurement requests for small and medium-sized enterprises.
“It is our expectation that new entrants into the business environment in Barbados would help to break up the monopolies that cause prices to rise, that encourage inefficiency and stultify economic growth,” he stated.
The Prime Minister also revealed government’s goal to increase the number of self-employed entrepreneurs from approximately 10 percent of the current working population to 20 percent by 2016. He identified some of the potential growth areas as information technology software development, solar technology goods and services, environmentally-friendly building materials, the arts, food and beverages.
He added that all ministries had been injected with “heavy doses of the enterprise culture” to enable more entrepreneurs to come forward. He advocated the establishment of one-stop shops at which potential entrepreneurs could gain access to a package of assistance to develop business enterprises.
“Included in the package would be on-going technical support and mentorship to help new businesses survive the first two years of operation when the majority of small businesses fail,” Mr. Thompson explained.
With reference to the Innovation Awards, the Prime Minister said it was not unrealistic to expect to see 1,000 potential entrepreneurs participating in the next competition. To this end, he said he would use whatever resources he had at his disposal to encourage an increase in the number of participants, as the competition was “the best means of spreading the culture”.
Vanavah Edwards emerged top innovator in this year’s competition from a field of five finalists. His Duty-Free Data Card System, which earned him $75,000 in prize money, will allow shoppers to qualify for duty free status without having to produce passports and other travel documents.