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#BTColumn – SBA Week begins

Message from Minister of State for Foreign Trade & Business Development Sandra Husbands to commemorate the start of Small Business Week 2023

The theme for Small Business Week of Facilitating A Transformative Agenda that is Fit for Purpose has provoked our sensitivities by focusing our eyes on the gaps between the exploration of opportunities, development of transformative strategies and taking decisive action to ensure that those policies and initiatives are implemented to generate economic value in a way that links commercial success to societal advancement. 

While we contemplate this challenge, we must also reflect on the current state of affairs. The World Economic Outlook Update for July 2023 indicates that “the global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is slowing amid widening divergences among economic sectors and regions”. It further states that supply chains have largely recovered, and shipping costs and suppliers’ delivery times are back to pre-pandemic levels. But forces that hindered growth in 2022 persist. Inflation remains high and continues to erode household purchasing power. 

The Central Bank of Barbados’ report on Barbados’ Economic Performance for the first 6 months of the year has echoed the World Economic Outlook’s sentiments of global resilience, by underscoring Barbados’ own resilience in the face of unfavourable global developments. The report highlighted that “economic activity expanded by 3.9 per cent, representing the ninth consecutive quarter of economic expansion. This growth resulted in fiscal surpluses, improved employment, reduced debt-to-GDP ratio, a narrowing gap between the value of exports and imports and record foreign reserve levels. The increased economic activity also fed into the financial services sector, improving credit quality, as well as boosting assets and profits”.

Needless to say, the most recent report on the performance of Barbados’ economy is testament to the strident efforts of the business sector, (including micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)) with the support of entities such as the Small Business Association to reimagine and rethink the way businesses operate in the face of the vulnerabilities laid bare by daunting geopolitical circumstances. Certainly, this augurs well for the systematic steps being taken by the various echelons of society to maintain enhanced productivity and enable growth.

My government has made known its commitment to enabling the long-term recovery and stability of the Barbados economy. The promotion of economic diversification, enhancement of competitiveness, boosting of growth and development of systems that reduce unnecessary bottlenecks and bureaucracy have been core to our strategy.

Intent on not being left behind by the global changes in technology, which continue to transform the digital trading landscape and have seen the rise of Industry 4.0, both of which threaten to accelerate progress for advanced economies and deepen existing inequities between those economies and lesser developed economies, my government stands alert. The pursuit of programmes to address those inequities and narrow the digital divide whilst bolstering the capacity, competitiveness and export performance of MSMEs remains paramount.

To attain progress, we must stand together. Establishing an enabling environment requires multifaceted strategic implementation and participation at all levels of governance in order to foster innovation and present opportunities for business. In my estimation, to effect positive change and derive the benefits of any initiative, we must start by changing our mindsets and taking a holistic approach to the success we wish to achieve. 

Within the last several years the government has initiated several programmes to elicit fundamental change in the way we do business. Among these are: 

– The National Training Initiative (NTI), which is strategically positioned to introduce citizens to a broad range of training disciplines via the “Coursera” platform to foster the paradigm shift into the newer and emerging fields of business, such as cyber security, robotics, and animation. 

– The promotion of financial literacy among the island’s corporate community and educational institutions designed to help citizens make wiser financial and investment decisions. 

– Provision of support to students to pursue postgraduate studies in areas of national significance; the benefit of which will be finding solutions to issues that confront society. 

– Export Barbados, one of the key organs in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, has taken the lead in establishing Life Sciences Park that will be a world-class facility with scientific and pharmaceutical grade units, which will add $250 million in exports and create 3 000 new high-quality jobs. 

– Through a partnership between Export Barbados and the Government of India, a special grant has been offered to generate employment and will see the expansion of the SME sector. The project will be sustained by the Government of India for at least five years to transfer knowledge and skills in packaging and design, among other things. 

– The Barbados National Standards Institution is entrained to implement a Front of Packaging Label warning system, which is expected to support the food and beverage manufacturing industry by raising consumer awareness of the nutrient content of their products and their effects on consumer health. 

– Finance and credit remain a perennial issue for MSMEs; the government has sought to implement projects through the Ministry with responsibility for Business to correct this imbalance. The Innovation and Growth Market is one such Caribbean Development Bank-funded project in partnership with the SBA and the Barbados Stock Exchange to Promote Access to Equity Financing. The project was officially launched on March 6 of this year. 

– In addition to this finance programme, on 4 August, 2023 – Professor Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), along with CARICOM Heads of Governments presided over the official opening of the CARICOM office of the Bank in Barbados, while reaffirming the US$1.5 billion credit limit made available to support eligible CARICOM States. 

– Another transformative programme is the Bridgetown Initiative, which aims to overcome some of the main shortcomings of mobilising climate finance for small island developing states (SIDS) like Barbados such as: high climate vulnerability; low ability to raise finance that increases financial risks, which leads to a dependence on official development assistance or remittances for economic development. 

These are but a few of the key suite of policies, programmes and initiatives that my government has sought to use to reposition Barbados on a trajectory towards growth and competitiveness. With your input and support, they should bear fruit. 

The Small Business Association of Barbados (SBA) is the island’s non-profit representative body for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Connect with the SBA:

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