Article taken from the Barbados Today – February 3, 2021
Thousands of micro and small businesses have applied for the Government’s cash stimulus to help them through the two-week lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19, Minister of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Kerrie Symmonds, has reported.
Symmonds put the figure at 7,827 businesses while seeking the House of Assembly’s approval for a supplementary budget of 3.5 million dollars to assist with the effort. Some 4,869 of those applications have been processed and filtered, while an additional 2,958 are still being worked on as recently as Monday evening, he told the House.
Shopkeepers are to receive a subsidy of $750 per week in compensation for the two week period.
Symmonds also indicated that the number of applications sent by email has been growing with a wide range of business operators applying, showing a need for wider and better registration.
He said: “There has to be a way of making sure that there are standards. There has to be a way of making sure that people are a part of the system and that the system is able to relate to people who are operating.
“So for those people who have been genuinely able to demonstrate what they do then we must be able to work with them and partner with them in their development. And we must discourage folks from disappearing under the radar because we can’t help develop businesses if we don’t know that the business is existing in a formal way.”
The minister of small business and entrepreneurship said there is also a need for businesses to make contributions to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
The circumstances which confront the small and micro businesses are dire, said Symmonds, who noted that it is a matter of social reality that the economic burden falls on those who are most vulnerable in society.
He said unlike what has happened in the rest of the Caribbean where small businesses have been severely affected by the economic hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, Government has committed itself to struggle in order to ensure that a subsidy is given to small and micro business operators able to genuinely demonstrate that they have been doing the business prior to the lockdown.
The minister extended gratitude to the staff of his ministry, and the staff of the Trust Loan Fund, for going above and beyond to work overtime to ensure that the applications were thoroughly processed with required accountability checks to make sure the businesses are legitimate taking place.
Symmonds said: “In this period of time, it is still within the capacity of some misguided folks in this country to submit an application that suggests that they own a liquor licence, but cannot give to the people who are in authority, any evidence of a shop, or any evidence of a history of that shop’s operation.
“It is unfortunate that it is still within the capacity of some folks in Barbados to be able to submit an application for assistance arising out of the operation of a taxi, and that licence that the taxi operates is allegedly held by five different National Identification numbers.
“And therefore, it becomes very difficult for us to do these things when we are confronted with the approach that is so distinctly unhelpful and which suggests that people would try to game and disadvantage the system clearly for the purpose of narrow personal gain.”
Symmonds said the Government would not turn a blind eye to such dishonest behaviour but will also not allow those who are genuinely in need to suffer.
Government employees, using government email addresses, have also submitted applications for the stimulus, he revealed. (AH)