Jamaican-born businesswoman Valrie Grant, whose company GeoTech Vision Enterprises has established a second home here in Guyana last Thursday told the opening ceremony of the 2016 Jubilee Anniversary GuyExpo that the central bank coupled with commercial banks can play a significant role in supporting the channeling of investment to the small business sector.
“To encourage commercial banks to lend to SMEs, central banks and designated financial service regulators must play a proactive role,” Grant, who served as guest speaker, told the Sophia audience. “Government and the central bank must set out a policy framework for channeling adequate funds to the SME sector,” she said, adding that government and the Bank of Guyana “may also consider a set of special measures for SMEs.” Listed amongst the measures identified by Grant are “guarantee programmes” and what she described as “more user-friendly and transparent disclosure systems to reduce the risks perceived by banks.”
And in what was clearly an aggressive lobby for heightened official attention to entrepreneurship as a critical developmental tool, Grant declared that if the envisaged speeding up of the country’s development is to become a reality “promoting and sustaining entrepreneurship will therefore have to be an integral part of the government’s national development plan.” She said that having the right policy that supports medium and small business development has to be wedded to mechanisms “to promote entrepreneurship, build capacity and foster entrepreneurial thinking starting at the educational level.”
Meanwhile, Grant told state and private sector officials and members of the public present at the opening ceremony that taking entrepreneurship forward would mean having to look beyond the traditional templates and focusing to a greater extent on thinking outside of the box. “While traditional entrepreneurship often replicates successful ventures and enterprises there is a need for innovative entrepreneurship that focuses on new methods, ideas and business models that challenges the status quo and solves big local, regional and global problems, thus creating economic and social value.”
Grant also pointed to the need for what she described as “an effective policy framework for SMEs” which she said should begin with a review designed to identify constraints and possible solutions. “A useful way of identifying such constraints is through public-private sector discussion,” Grant said, adding that “the role and status of private sector organizations as partners in development and as the spokesperson of private enterprises must be accepted.”
Grant asserted that yet another critical area in the drive to develop a strong local SME framework was the need to significantly improve the main drivers’, “competitiveness, finance, innovation and skills.” Competitiveness, she said is “a prerequisite for maintaining high levels of income and employment. Greater competitiveness allows developing countries like Guyana to diversify, thus moving away from dependence on a few primary-commodity exports and moving up the skills and technology ladder.”
Grant told the opening ceremony that one of the most important indicators of competitiveness is export competitiveness, which, she said, “consists not only of higher exports, but also more diversified exports. It also includes an expanding base of domestic enterprises able to compete globally.” Accordingly, she said, local businesses must be prepared “to meet international export standards. In my opinion we are not there yet but we must get there very quickly!”
Addressing the state of the agro processing industry, Grant said the sector still appeared to be limited to the traditional crops. “Guyana has a variety of fruits and vegetables but these are perishable and many are seasonal so processing these items so that they can be consumed during off season becomes important,” she added.
Meanwhile, Grant said in her presentation that Guyana needed to move quickly to improve its 132 rating in the global Ease of Doing Business Index. “This has to change,” she declared.