Article taken from Barbados Today – February 27, 2023
LOANS TO TRUST FUND APPLICANTS A CHALLENGE GIVEN RISING COSTS
Head of the Barbados Trust Fund Limited has conceded that the loans from that organisation to some persons trying to launch and finance their businesses is not enough in the current environment of rising input costs.
Jerry Amos, the fund’s acting General Manager told the Estimates hearing on Monday morning that the challenge arose over the last couple years as prices started to climb.
“The money that is being borrowed is insufficient at this time and persons are complaining about the fact that raw materials not only are expensive, but are sometimes inaccessible.
“The challenge is real,” Amos told the Standing Finance Committee which continued to discuss the Ministry of Energy and Business Development.
By way of relief, and to assist the business owners to scale up, Amos said the fund is offering the $10 000 loan which it was hesitant to lend over the last few years. “We realise that people need more money because things have risen significantly,” he admitted.
“We have also partnered with the credit unions so if persons want money over $10 000 the credit union is willing to give loans over $200 000 to our clients. Already one client has moved over, and we have a few more in the pipeline,” Amos disclosed.
The loan programme launched with an offer for a $5 000 loan to assist micro enterprises to get a business footing. A secondtime applicant is offered up to $10 000. Up to July 2020, the fund had disbursed close to $14 million to eligible applicants.
Later in the session, when questioned by Christ Church West Central MP Adrian Forde about the process of small business people applying for loans and applicants’ success rate, Amos reported that very few people were turned away.
“We at the Barbados Trust Fund Limited try very hard to ensure that most persons that walk through our door are successful with loans. If we have challenges with a person applying we try to actually assign some person to that individual to guide them as to how they can become successful even if they fail at the first attempt,” he said.
“So, for us, we have almost a zero per cent rejection rate.”
Another government agency that provides funding for small businesses, the Barbados Agency for Micro Enterprise Development Ltd. (FundAccess), also reported that less than 10 per cent of applicants are unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, in answer to probing by St Michael South Central Member of Parliament Marsha Caddle on what incentives are available to persons facing the cost impact of the foreign exchange fee and other costs, Amos told the House: “What we have done over the last year is that we have tried to address some of the issues and put things in place to help buffer the problems that they are experiencing.”
In addition to partnering with Export Barbados and local firm Goddards Enterprises to possibly bring in items so clients could benefit from cost savings, Amos said the fund also started a Manufest Programme in October last year in an effort to help loan recipients get to the export stage or onto local supermarket shelves.
The programme, he explained, took the manufacturers through product development with the help of the fund’s sector specialists to help them improve their products. The hand extended to the successful loan applicants also assisted them with packaging and labelling.
“We know if they try to do it themselves the costs would be astronomical,” he added. “We also play a significant role in business development in all areas of costing and pricing, public speaking and social media marketing.”
He told the morning session from the Well of Parliament that to further extend the buffer for the fund’s clients, the fund continues to look into the development of clusters which would also help beneficiaries to take advantage of bulk-buying savings.
According to him, one of the major challenges in recent times has been with the importation of glass bottles which are presently subjected to weekly cost increases. However, he said, “We are trying to find a cheaper source outside and we are working with Export Barbados to accomplish this.”
The session also heard that the first cohort of 48 persons are to receive their export certificates from Export Barbados on March 14 and they are to also benefit from the arrival here of a distributor from London with whom they will explore the potential to get products on the English market.
“So, while we know there are challenges, we have come up with some plans and programmes to try and buffer those challenges,” Amos said. (SBP)