Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds. (FP)

Message by The Honourable Kerrie Symmonds M.P.Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship on the occasion of the launch of Small Business Week 2020September 20-26, 2020.

Members of the small business community, fellow Barbadians, ever so often life presents itself as a set of seeming ironies. On occasion, the celebration of events considered important to us has to be coupled with sober reflection on the challenges of our immediate circumstances.

It is this paradox with which Small Business Week 2020 greets us, as together we grapple with the debilitating impact meted out to the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) sector, resulting from the unimaginable emergence of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This year’s events have confirmed that as stakeholders within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, we must be resolved to ensure that our efforts at advancing this very important sector are neither shrouded in self-doubt nor in self-defeatism. 

It is with this in mind, that I underscore the importance of the theme for Small Business Week 2020, namely, “The era of digital disruption – thinking beyond the box”. This theme serves as a reminder that a number of critical avenues must be pursued, if there is to be greater success along this entrepreneurial journey. Among these are the fact that to compete in this digital era, firms will need to review and in some cases to revise their operating models every 18-24 months.

While for some firms that pace of change may seem impossible, their very survival in today’s world depends on it. It will require implementation of practical strategies and frameworks to increase entrepreneurial agility so that these businesses can evolve their operating models continuously and also unlock the fullest potential of their business life cycle.

Digital disruption is real, and it is happening now, and it is fundamentally challenging and changing the way in which organizations will be required to compete both today and for decades to come. Those who choose not to be transformational today, will quickly face the prospect of extinction tomorrow. As a result, there must be an urgent understanding that going “digital” means much more than simply the effective use of technology, rather, it is a new way of life, in which we all need to be prepared to participate.

The question to be asked is, does the orthodox thinking of a bricks and mortar strategy suffice, or does that now have to be complemented by digital marketing, and perhaps electronic commerce and electronic payments solutions platforms?

There is a vast world of business strategy that now needs to be mastered by business operators and also by consumers alike, and this new frontier begins with, and necessitates, the provision of ample guidance for the digitally unprepared so as to better position them to seize the myriad opportunities that await those of us who are entrepreneurially fit.

This government, therefore has a duty and will remain cognizant of its responsibility to demonstrate situational awareness of the challenges and the needs facing and confronting the MSME sector and to position itself to respond in a timely, efficient and effective manner to the challenges faced by those businesses that have been disrupted and even in some cases also dislocated as a result of the ongoing saga of the COVID- 19 pandemic.

To this end, my Ministry will shortly be launching a National Financial Literacy initiative, which is intended to facilitate the sustainability and the life-long success of businesses, individuals and households. Through this initiative, a series of Financial Literacy Satellite Clinics will be held across the length and breadth of Barbados in order to promote and encourage sound financial management as a way of life that can positively impact all levels of our society and also impact in a positive way all MSMEs.  A virtual programme version of the training modules will also be prepared and placed on line, so as to facilitate the easiest form of access for all persons who wish to participate.

The Ministry will also facilitate the development of a National MSME Act by March 2021.  This will create the legislative space which is absolutely necessary for us to incentivize, and promote a more competitive and innovative MSME sector, while affording MSMEs a suite of relevant incentives to positively impact their sustainability and growth. 

The Ministry will also continue to work with the Barbados Stock Exchange and the Small Business Association to develop a Junior Stock Market to afford MSMEs greater access to finance through the capital market. This will be further complemented by the establishment of a Collateral Registry to allow MSMEs to benefit from an online Registry, where they can register charges and collateral created by borrowers to secure credit facilities provided by lenders. The Collateral Registry will provide for the first time ever in Barbados a facility for online registration of security interests in movable assets, which will be pledged as collateral. This ground breaking approach is intended to stimulate the use of movable property as security interest in order to increase MSME’s access to credit in this country.

Going forward, a niche must be carved out for the MSME sector to benefit more significantly from Government’s policy prescriptions and commitments to build-out the renewable energy sector. In this regard, efforts of MSMEs to leverage these opportunities as well as to strategically build-out other national priority sectors including the Information, Communication and Technology sector; the Creative sector; Agri-business; and critical Tourism niches, such as health and wellness, sports and community-based tourism, will be facilitated to the fullest extent possible.  All of these activities can be further developed and taken to what was previously an elusive export platform.

While our micro, small and medium-sized enterprises have been given a terrible blow, we as a people must never surrender. Our goal must be to bind ourselves even closer together at this critical juncture, for defeat is not an option.

As we look to the future, let us therefore commit to helping the most vulnerable among us since we are as strong as our weakest link, since we are all collectively only as strong as our weakest link.  In closing let us look up to the One who best understands and can change our plight for the better. It is therefore for this reason that I take courage from the words of our National Anthem which reminds us “The Lord has been the people’s guide for past three hundred years, with Him still on the people’s side we have no doubts or fears, Upward and onward we shall go Inspired, exulting, free, and greater will our nation grow in strength and unity.”  Let us therefore think beyond the box and allow our disruptive technologies not to hinder, but to advance our better cause.

I thank you!

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