If it was altogether predictable that the Amaila Falls hydropower project would dominate the discourses at the August 14-15 National Economic Forum, the fact that the role of the small business sector in the country’s wider economic ambitions failed to even make the cut as a key issue for discourse at the opening of the forum was a considerable disappointment. That, particularly si
nce President Donald Ramotar himself has talked up what we are told are the various contributions which small businesses can make to the growth of the country’s economy. Not least among these are job creation, the establishment of new economic sectors and the consolidation of existing ones and the enhancement of potential for external market access for such new products and services as may derive from a consolidated small business sector.
It took more than eight years following the passage in the National Assembly of the Small Business Act for government to give institutional effect to the legislation by creating the Small Business Council and the Small Business Bureau. The latter will be responsible for furnishing small businesses with loans, grants and credit guarantees with which to kick start and consolidate thousands of businesses across the country.
One understands only too well that the conditionalities associated with the Bureau’s disbursement of the first US$5m assigned to the project would have meant a delay in kicking the project into gear. It has, however, been well nigh a year since we had hoped that the Bureau would begin to function. Certainly, for all of this year, this newspaper was being given assurances that the formal launch of the Bureau was inevitable. We are still waiting.
Mind you, several months ago, scores of small businesses were encouraged to register with the Bureau with the expectation that their various enterprises would benefit from the kinds of support which we are told the Bureau would provide.
This week’s National Economic Forum might have been the ideal opportunity for announcing that the Small Business Bureau was now ready to engage clients. That would have sent a positive message to communities across the country that small business development could anticipate the s
ustained official support commensurate with the pronouncements that are made from time to time about the important place which it occupies in the country’s economy. Perhaps worse than the fact that large numbers (perhaps thousands) of small business owners and potential ones are simply being kept in the dark as to just when the Bureau will come on stream – operationally, that is – is that fact that the authorities appear to see nothing wrong with the protracted wait.