Lack of quality staff cited as critical weakness at Small Business Bureau

Even as the Government of Guyana continues to tag the Small Business Bureau as the principal state-run agency for effectively implementing the provisions of the Small Business Act, the Ministry of Business believes that there are “several institutional constraints and challenges” that preclude the state-run agency from effectively exercising that mandate.

Created under the 2004 Small Business Act, the Bureau is regarded as a key institution in the effective implementation of the first government-backed guarantee programme and subsidized interest payment facility targeting sector-specific small and medium-scale enterprises in areas such as craft and agro-processing. However, in its recently published 2016-2020 Strategic Plan the Ministry of Business cited a number of weaknesses currently plaguing the Bureau which it says makes the effective execution of its tasks challenging.

At the top of the ministry’s list of concerns with regard to the condition of the Bureau, is the fact that the agency is currently without a Chief Executive Officer, a circumstance which it says “can negatively affect the agency’s image and result in the perception that diminished importance is placed on its role to support MSE development.

Having already overseen the disbursement of millions dollars in grants and loans to small businesses, the jury is still out on the Bureau having regard to the fact that, first, it has failed to reach its job-creation target of more than 2,000 jobs and second, it is still to present a progress report on those small businesses that have been grant beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Business’ Strategic Plan also raises questions about the Bureau’s ability to effectively deliver services in far-flung areas of the country where those services are, arguably, most needed, given the fact of its centralization in Georgetown “where its only office is located.” This newspaper has raised the issue of what one Region Five small business owner had once described to this newspaper as the “single-location dilemma” of the Bureau which said at the time that there were no immediate plans for creating other offices.

The Ministry of Business says the Bureau lacks both “an appropriate mechanism” as well as “the relevant resources” to effectively evaluate its programmes at the levels of their contribution to GDP, revenue, exports and transfer of skills and knowledge. Noting that inadequate funding has been a “major concern” for the Bureau, the report says it is often “forced to water down its approach at the expense of appearing unproductive and invisible in the eyes of the private sector.”

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