I want to highly commend the Nation Publishing Company Limited for demonstrating its commitment to the small business sector through the launching of this initiative. Small businesses must surely welcome this initiative which will serve to complement a range of incentives being offered by the Government of Barbados primarily through the Small Business Development Act.
As you are aware, my Ministry of Commerce is charged with inter alia, the development of policies to foster the growth of the business sector in Barbados, and has been working assiduously to provide an enabling environment for business development.
In fact, Governments the world over have acknowledged the critical important and critical role that the small business sector plays. For small businesses are regarded as fundamental to generating employment and improving economic growth. I am sure that you will agree that many small and medium sized enterprises are also responsible for some of the major technological developments which the world enjoys today. For example, EMI developed the CAT scan technology.
At the regional level, the small business sector is part of a broad base approach to further elevate the economic development of the region. And in formulating the provisions for Small Business Development in Protocol 3 – Industrial Policy for the Single Market and Economy, the CARICOM Secretariat cited authoritative estimates which confirm that small and medium sized businesses in the region:
· Contribute 40% to GDP
· Account for 70% of employment
· Generally provide transportation for commuters and tourists; are leaders in the manufacturing sub-sectors like wood products, furniture, handicraft items and garments; and
· Play a leading role in construction, equipment repairs and maintenance, technical service activities and the distribution and retail trades.
The Government of Barbados, also recognising the contribution of the small business sector to sustainable economic growth, and committed to providing an environment to facilitate such growth, enacted in December, 1999 the Small Business Development Act which provides a package of fiscal and financial incentives, aimed at stimulating the growth and development of the sector.
For the benefit of those who may be unfamiliar with the provisions of the Act, eligible businesses may be granted any or all of the following incentives provided in the Act:
· Permission to import plant and equipment free of import duty;
· Payment of corporation tax at a reduced rate of 25% of profits;
· Exemption from the payment of stamp duty;
· Exemption from withholding tax on dividends and interest earned on investment in an approved small business or in any fund approved for investment in small businesses;
· Access to technical assistance; and
· Access to loan guarantee cover under the Credit Guarantee Scheme operated by the Central Bank of Barbados.
In order to qualify for approved status under the Act, businesses are required to become incorporated. Many small businesses viewed incorporation as a restraint, since they found the cost of incorporation burdensome. To address this concern, the Government has agreed to facilitate the incorporation of small businesses by providing a special grant of 75% of the cost of incorporation or $1 700, whichever is lower.
To further illustrate its commitment to the sector, the Government provides an annual subvention of $175 000 to the Small business Association to help it to meet its operating costs.
This Association which was formed to promote the growth and development of small businesses in Barbados, can serve as a useful forum to promote and protect the interest of the small business community. I therefore encourage the members of the small business community who are not yet members, to join the Small Business Association.
That Association, as you may well know, was formed to promote the growth and development of small businesses in Barbados, and can serve as a useful forum to promote and protect the interests of the small business community. I therefore encourage the member of the small business community who are not yet members of the association, to join the Small Business Association.
With respect to the utilization of the provisions of the Small Business Development Act, my small business persons, as at
June 22, 2001, the Ministry had received a total of forty-five (45) applications for “approved small business status”. Of the total, no fewer than twenty-six (26) have been approved by the Minister while nine (9) of the applications which have been approved have also been published in the Official Gazette. Additionally there are three applications currently with the Government Printing Department awaiting publication in the Official Gazette; and the number would have been more were it not for the requirement that businesses be current in the payment of National Insurance Contribution and Income Taxes.
In this era of liberalised market access, where powerful multinational corporations are seeking more and more to enter markets around the globe, local businesses will be forced to compete fiercely. It is therefore imperative that businesses focus on innovation as a means not only of survival, but moreso to achieve a competitive edge. To assist innovative efforts, Government has created a five million dollar innovation fund which will be managed by the Enterprise Growth Fund Limited the modalities for the operation of this fund are being discussed with a view to having the fund operational by yearend. I am sure you will agree that those businesses which do not undergo a change in mindset and cultivate a new ‘enterprise culture’, will expose themselves to the risk of demise.
Barbados, as a member of the World Trade Organisation, was obliged to dismantle all protective barriers from which local manufacturers and producers benefited. Local businesses, small or large, must therefore adopt new strategies to meet the challenges which now confront them. I wish to stress that although the incentives offered under the Act will assist small businesses in becoming viable entities, these incentives alone cannot guarantee a small business success.
Businesses must seek to identify opportunities and aggressively pursue them. Effective planning, training, retooling and the use of information technology must all play a vital role in the successful operation of a business.
Quality of product and service is also of vital importance to the success of a business. Cognisant of this, the Ministry has organised a number of seminars, focussing on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) in order to sensitise small business in the food industry, to adhere to proper quality control which is necessary, particularly, for the export market.
In the non-food sector, under the auspices of the Barbados National Standards Institution, we have also assisted a number of small businesses in their quest for ISO 9000 certification.
There is little, if any, time left for you to grasp the reality that being competitive is the sine qua non for survival and or success, and indeed you must differentiate your products and services, to increase or even maintain your market share.
What we need to realise is that being an entrepreneur and running a small business go beyond management skills and business plans or personal business skills and knowledge.
As entrepreneurs and small business people your objective must include:
· Being prepared to innovate and do things differently and strategically.
· Not being averse to risk.
· Learning by doing, as opposed to playing it safe and waiting.
· Being committed to seeing projects through even though they take longer than planned.
· Always be ready to find solutions to your problems.
· Be focussed on your vision for your business, and
· Be creative to avoid difficulty in this challenging global environment.
Please now permit me to share with you some of the Ministry’s future programmes, which are geared to stimulate and enhance the growth of your enterprises.
In early July, we will be hosting a free seminar, the first in a series of seminars/workshops on the skills and techniques necessary in creating and maintaining an e-Business also known as a ‘dotcom’. We will be working in partnership with local and international professionals who are richly experienced and trained in the field to provide you with the exposure and training needed for progress in this new business setting.
On July 25th, 2001 we will host a workshop to acquaint professionals with the skills required to create a viable enterprise,
which would be used as part of their strategy to “export” their services and products. The development of related skills such as relationship building, market research, creating the vision for an internationally competitive enterprise and how to market their craft at an international level will also be on the agenda
In the year 2002, we will be starting the groundwork for the conducting of a National Small Business Census. In order for this venture to be successful, we will solicit your full co-operation as the information gathered will inform further policy development for the sector. And the statistical data will provide information which you will be able to use in the development of strategies for your business.
Ladies and gentlemen I noted that the theme of the seminar relates to the growing of your business through good marketing strategies. You are here today in an effort to find a way to market your products and services in order to make more money. Your primary market is the local market, but marketing through the Nation newspaper exposes you to international clients as well. This produces greater scope for your business.
Marketing is a priority for the successful operation of any business. But many surveys conducted among small and medium sized enterprises in several countries have indicated that marketing is a recurring problem for enterprises surveyed.
Although not a marketing expert, please permit me to share my thoughts with you. You cannot serve your customers well unless you fully know their needs – note I said needs and not wants. You should take the time to get to know your customers - get to know them and, possibly, to think like them. You can more change your business to meet the needs of the customer than change the customer to meet the needs of your business.
You should strive at all times to satisfy the needs of the customer, since the customer would be less inclined to look elsewhere when satisfactory services are rendered.
Finally, I encourage you to define, plan and implement your marketing strategies. Markets are constantly changing and you should seek to develop a strategy which is based on the particular demands of the market, whether local, regional, or international.
I therefore encourage small business persons to take full advantage of the benefits provided under the Charter.
In concluding, let me offer congratulations once again to the Nation Publishing Company Limited and the Small Business Association of Barbados for forging this partnership which will facilitate the development of small businesses in Barbados.
Let me also express my best wishes for a successful conclusion to this important seminar.
I thank you.