Small Business Bureau tagged for key role in 2019 budget

Dr. Lowell Porter

With the provisions of the 2019 budget  pointing in the direction of a major focus on small business development in the new year, government appears to have handed the Small Business Bureau (SBB) a major role in positioning the sector as a factor in ensuring economic growth and employment generation in the new year.

On Monday, Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin told the National Assembly that the Bureau will assume an increasingly critical role in the national response to the three “main challenges” facing small businesses in Guyana, ‘training, access to finance and improved opportunities for small businesses.”

In his post-budget presentation in the House, Gaskin disclosed that up to November this year the Bureau had been instrumental in facilitating training for 948 operators in sectors that include cosmetology, soap manufacturing and sustainable forestry. Additionally, the Bureau had played an important role in supporting 387 displaced  GUYSUCO workers with training in areas that include plumbing, transitioning to farming, catering, sewing and the preparation of loan and grant applications.

Next year, Gaskin told the National Assembly, the agenda of the SBB will include the continuation of its ‘lead role” in the business incubator programme and a total of $40 million has been allocated for providing furniture and equipment for the two incubators that will become operational next year.

Also critical to the work of the Bureau next year will be its role in building capacity among local small businesses seeking to sign on to government’s 20% contract allocation programme. In Parliament on Monday Gaskin said that the SBB’s role in this regard will include “basic training for managing and operating business” as well as ‘sector-specific training including green agro-processing, green agricultural practices and the use of green technologies.” Government has allocated $18 million for these types of training next year and is seeking to train 660 persons over the period.

At the end of October this year the SBB’s Micro and Small Business Development Programme, a critical component of its programme for small business financial support came to an end and Gaskin announced that the allocation of $100 million to the Small Business Development Fund for 2019 “to ensure that loan guarantees and grants continue uninterrupted until the second phase of the Norway-funded Micro and Small Enterprise Development Programme comes on stream”.

The work of the SBB with building a stronger small business infrastructure apart, this year, the Bureau will also be expected to consolidate work already done to help create a robust business culture in the country’s school system. Its efforts during this year saw the expansion of the In-school Entrepre-neurship Programme including the allocation of $5 million for grants of up to $30,000 each to allow for the pursuit of “real projects” related to their academic studies. A further $5 million has been allocated to providing grants for a similar number students next year.

Meanwhile Gaskin disclosed that next year the Bureau will be seeking to disburse the remaining six grants of $1 million each to six small businesses out of a $12 million Green Innovation Fund allocated for the pursuit of “green business projects.” An earlier allocation of $1 million was made to six similar projects last year.

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