The micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) sector has been identified as one of the sectors that would catapult Barbados’ economic growth after the economic crisis has passed. A 2016 study commissioned by the Small Business Association has shown that the sector accounts for 92 per cent of formal enterprises and 62 per cent of employment in the private sector.
Despite the challenges facing the sector, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and the CARIFORUM – European Union (EU) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Standby Facility for Capacity Building’s project entitled: Strengthening of the Regional Quality Infrastructure Programme in Barbados, Dominica, and St. Kitts and Nevis has been hailed as the “beacon of hope” to strengthen the sector and make it more competitive on the world stage.
The regional project, which was launched virtually last week, is aimed at, among other things, strengthening the national and quality infrastructure across CARICOM member states.
Director of Projects at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Daniel Best, espoused the view that the project activities would directly impact local expertise and resources at speialised labs that provided enhanced measurement and calibrating services at designated facilities in the participating countries.
“Further, this project would add value to local business processes by significantly decreasing the cost of metrology and calibration services for entrepreneurs requiring testing services at labs managed by agencies represented here today…. The project will deliver invaluable support to local and regional enterprises and focuses on several subsectors in each economy, namely agro-processing, transportation and construction,” he underlined.
Mr. Best explained that access to internationally recognised resources in the sub-sectors identified was a “noteworthy step as segments of Caribbean economies are encountering unprecedented economic hurdles which limit opportunities”.
The CDB Director of Projects added that in keeping with its long-term strategy, the bank has identified and is championing initiatives that promoted private sector development and also facilitated business communication and innovation.
Emphasising that the CSME, EPA Stand-by facility is expected to enhance the operations and output of MSMEs, Mr. Best intimated that the sector played a pivotal role in the development of regional economies.
“MSMEs remain a major player in regional economies, contributing on average 50 per cent of GDP, and creating 45 per cent of the jobs in our region. Over 60 per cent of exporters and 40 per cent of exports in the Bank’s borrowing member countries originate from the MSME sector,” he emphasised.
Cognisant of the constraints faced by the sector, Mr. Best said studies have shown that more work needed to be done in areas such as enforcing better product quality, the provision of technical support and the development of regional innovative systems.
Despite these shortcomings, Mr. Best said the sector remained a critical area for “strategic and focused attention in ongoing efforts to eliminate poverty and inequality and pledged the CDB’s continued support for the MSMEs sector”.
“CDB will, therefore, continue to craft support programmes for our borrowing member countries, recognising the powerful social, economic and environmental role of MSMEs. Our private sector development policy and strategy and robust MSME work programme are shoring up the sector’s development and catalysing its export capacity,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Programme Manager with the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, CARICOM Secretariat, Leo Preville, articulated the view that the CSME, EPA Standby Facility for Capacity Building was launched at a time when the region was forced to review their production systems, the composition of the national output, and trading practices on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He argued that countries who explored those alternatives, would “emerge from COVID-19 as a more robust and resilient group of countries and people”.
“This project, which seeks to build a national quality policy…and strengthen metrology in the three participating countries, is indeed a step in the right direction. Building resilience in the region also requires widening and deepening the composition of our national output,” he stated.
Chief Executive Officer of the CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), Deryck Omar, said the Standby-Facility would bring regional economies closer to achieving enhanced competitiveness and sustainability.
“Every training, accreditation, certification, additional piece of equipment to outfit our national laboratories and education of our sectors and stakeholders will help in our aim to allow our businesses to expand their potential, and close the gap between where they are and where they could be and bring them even closer to offering world-class products and services right here in and from our region,” he underlined.
Acting Director of the Barbados National Standards Institution, Hadyn Rhynd, praised the collaboration between CROSQ and the CDB, in their quest to promote the development of quality infrastructure as a tool for competitiveness, trade and the implementation of projects that promote economic recovery and development in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
“This really brings good hope and I am really encouraged and excited about the outcomes of the project,” Mr. Rhynd added.
It is the second regional project to be approved by the CARIFORUM – EU EPA and the CSME Standby Facility for Capacity Building, and will see USD 874,932 being invested over two years in technical assistance and equipment and other resources to strengthen the metrology capacity in the three countries.