Tobago fisherman, Charles James, has been operating from the Milford Bay area near Pigeon Point for 15 years and has “never seen the sea behave like that.”
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New MSE policy going to Cabinet
The Government is finalising a Micro and Small Enterprise (MSE) Development Policy to address all the challenges facing that sector. Michael Gordon, manager of the Enterprise Development Division in the Ministry of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development, said the aim is to establish a framework for building capacity and to provide access to local, regional and international markets for greater access to capital. He said Labour Minister Errol Mc Leod was taking the policy to Cabinet for approval.
“Suffice it to say, we have identified several obstacles that put MSEs at a distinct disadvantage. One of the challenges being faced is that small businesses are usually unable to capitalise on contract opportunities in the public and private sectors because of size, or due to the substantial requirements placed on them,” he said.
“We have to look into this matter to determine whether such requirements need to be more focused on performance and financial capability and not just providing documentation. But it is not enough for us to remove obstacles. In order to strengthen entrepreneurship, we must also provide opportunities and offer incentives for persons to venture into entrepreneurship.” Gordon said people would get into business if they saw avenues to make profits.
“Our ministry has sought to create opportunities for MSEs by introducing the Fair Share Programme. One of the key objectives of the programme is to provide public procurement opportunities for certified micro and small enterprises up to $1 million,” he said.
“We have been making some progress in this area and I am happy to announce that over 1,200 MSEs have registered for the programme and we have 28 ministries, departments and agencies currently enrolled in the programme, willing to provide these opportunities to registered Fair Share vendors.” However, he said, some MSEs had been reluctant to participate because of concerns about late payments from state entities. They also felt there was no real advantage to being associated with the programme.
Gordon said support from ministries and state entities was increasing, as officials were pleased with the quality of service provided by MSEs and are now seeking Fair Share vendors for their procurement processes. “With respect to the timely payments, we have addressed this issue with the Ministry of Finance and the Economy and we intend to submit a note to Cabinet to address this problem for our Fair Share clients. We expect late payments to Fair Share clients to be a non-issue in the near future.
“Other opportunities to support MSEs will be targeted by our ministry and we will provide this information as these programmes are developed. However, creating opportunities and removing barriers are only two of the key issues that we must address. The third is equally as important—helping the MSEs improve their capacity to provide services. This is the biggest challenge of the three, but let me hasten to add that it is achievable.
“When we create opportunities, we wish to ensure that these entrepreneurs possess the requisite skills to provide these services. In this regard, the Fair Share Programme has focused on entrepreneurship and business skills training in the first instance and ultimately, on technical skills training to ensure that these MSEs run their businesses efficiently, as well as provide the highest quality services to its other customers.”
Gordon said the ministry’s National Integrated Business Incubator System (Ibis), which was operated by the National Entrepreneurship Development Company Ltd (Nedco), would put greater focus on entrepreneurship training. Ibis candidates are beneficiaries of six to eight-month training in marketing, financial management, operations management and human resource management. After that, they are coached to develop their individual business plans, which are evaluated by a team of professional entrepreneurs.
“As part of Ibis, successful graduates of the pre-incubator training are provided up to $100,000 in seed capital and equipment financing to ensure they have adequate start-up resources. In addition, they are provided continuous training, mentoring coaching and administrative support services and are provided a business space to help them operate their business.
“The MSE Development Policy seeks to expand this level of support so that entrepreneurship training, professional services, mentoring, financing and other services needed by MSEs will be more readily available to them.” Gordon said while the Government could facilitate, it was important to partner with key stakeholders and business support service providers to make services more accessible to aspiring entrepreneurs.